Chasing Thoreau

An Adventure in Paddling and Philosophy

Kayak adventurer Jim Payne, in his latest voyage, brings to life the times and thoughts of American naturalist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau.

In Chasing Thoreau, Payne follows a famous river trip made by the historical figure in 1839, starting in Thoreau’s home town of Concord, Massachusetts. As he plies the challenging waters, he tracks the places Thoreau knew and revisits his theories and ideas.

After solo trips on American and English waterways, recounted in One Inch above the Water (2008), Discovering England (2012), and Worlds to Discover (2015), Payne shares more harrowing and humorous adventures in Chasing Thoreau.

Through thick and thin, Payne shares uncanny experiences and coincidences that illustrate Thoreau's philosophy and engage readers on many levels.

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Chasing Thoreau book cover
  • Bill Bryson is in the super star league of amazing writers, but Jim Payne more than makes up by the quality of his experience, his observations, and also good writing. Highly recommended - very enjoyable.
  • Never could I picture myself undertaking a journey....Until Now. This book is part adventure, part travelogue, part comedy, part drama, part social commentary. I want to go where he went and meet the people he met.
  • Had trouble putting it down and I am not really a kayaker. Payne is a fine writer and his travels, insights and observations are a treat to read.
  • It's not easy to lead an interesting life, but it's even harder to write about one! Not only do I feel as if I took his trips with him,... I can hear him gently encouraging me to make my own adventure.

About Jim Payne

author photo

Retired professor and veteran kayaker, Jim Payne has written dozens of accounts of solo kayak trips in the U.S. and abroad. With fierce determination to face his fears, and the willingness to laugh - and learn - from his mistakes, Payne shares surprising discoveries, astute observations, survival instincts, and countless social encounters that highlight the regions he visits and human nature overall. Read more »

The 'Travelblog'

In Amsterdam, finally

When I came out to Arnhem on the train, I was praising the rail system to the skies. Lovely silent--you can hear a conversation at the other end of the car. Double decked. more »

Consumer Safety in Holland

My trip has evolved from kayaking to visiting Dutch towns. The River Ijssel is about as unscenic and anti-kayakable as it could be, plus the great problems coming ashore...more »

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Henry David Thoreau

Naturalist, Abolitionist, Philosopher

cover of One Inch Above the Water book
photograph of Henry David Thoreau

Now 200 years after his birth, the once lesser-known author, American philosopher and naturalist Henry David Thoreau is a celebrated figure today for his many contributions to society. The Boston Globe writes, "Thoreau’s rebelliousness, idealism, humanism, and concern for the environment (are) qualities that could have particular resonance amid the current cultural and political upheaval." Author of Walden and A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, mentee of Ralph Waldo Emerson, champion of individualism, and nature lover and observer, Thoreau's influence reaches far and wide....  Read more »

More Kayak Adventure Memoirs

Enjoy more engaging and riveting accounts from Jim Payne's One Inch above the Water book series.

cover of One Inch Above the Water book

One Inch above the Water: Running away on America's waterways shows us a side of America we’ve never seen. We’ve had tours of America by automobile, van, motorcycle, and on foot; now it’s time to see the river side. Payne’s journeys take us on the country’s famous rivers, including the Potomac, Columbia, Hudson, Saint Lawrence, and Mississippi, on the Erie Canal and Lake Champlain, and on the Atlantic Ocean along the Florida Keys. The memoir also explores the life of a man in his late 50’s rebelling against the adventure-is-over mentality and, through many struggles, celebrating the spirit of youth regardless of age.  more »

cover of Discovering England book

Discovering England: from One Inch above the Thames lures readers into American adventurer Jim Payne's kayak voyage, which turns out to be so much more. While paddling England’s historic Thames River from its rural headwaters to the metropolis of London, curiosity gets the better of him. Soon he’s poking into castles, sleeping in ruined cathedrals, facing down Henry VIII, and making friends who take him home and tell him what the English really think. The result is a personal discovery of England’s people, history, culture, customs, and even its amusing quirks.  more »

Lytton Publishing Company

Founded in 1975

Payne has written dozens of books, including works on Latin American politics, foreign policy, the U. S. Congress, taxation, welfare and voluntarism. He also penned a series of allegorical works on political philosophy, disguised as children’s books (the Princess Navina series and Take Me to Your Government). Find these and other books at Lytton Publishing online »

Lytton Publishing books

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