The only kayak A journey into the heart of Alaska

Kim Heacox

Book - 2005

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Subjects
Published
Guilford, Conn. : Lyons Press 2005.
Language
English
Physical Description
xiv, 249 p., [8] p. of plates : col. ill., map
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (p. 241-245).
ISBN
9781592288946
1592287158
Main Author
Kim Heacox (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

One hundred years after naturalist John Muir made his first trip to Alaska, National Park Service employee Heacox is paddling the waters of Glacier Bay with Richard Steele, a fellow summer recruit. The year is 1979, and their goal is to visit untrammeled wilderness, and to be the only kayak in the bay. Although some 25 years have passed since that summer, Heacox is still enamored of Alaska, and the valuable friendships he made there. He is an intrepid spirit well suited to Alaskan life, and has little patience for those who don't meet his standards. "Make access easy, and a place dies," is his motto, and therein lies the paradox that Heacox tries to resolve in this book. He knows that cruise ships are damaging to the bay's ecosystem, for example, yet he also realizes that it would be nearly impossible for the elderly visitors to enjoy the coastline by kayak as he does. As he wrestles with such conundrums, Heacox creates a nicely balanced environmental portrait of Alaska's ice-cut coast. ((Reviewed March 1, 2005)) Copyright 2005 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Writer and photographer Heacox delivers a genuine,deeply moving account of the past 25 years he has spent livingin Glacier Bay, Alaska, the last wild shore, nine hundred milesnorth of Seattle and nine hundred years in the past. Thiswork's title comes from the first kayaking trip Heacox tookthere in 1979. As he explored the bay with a friend, they foundthemselves the sole kayak in that body of water, alone, andescaped, left to wonder how long it could last, this wildnessand grace. Heacox's ability to use this tension between thebeauty of the Alaskan wilderness and the creeping encroachmentof modern life is the thread that unites his variedobservations, and it's what gives the book its uniqueness andkeeps it from being another pale imitation of Coming into theCountry, John McPhee's late-1970s classic on Alaska. Heacox (AnAmerican Idea; Shackleton; etc.) deftly renders highly personalaccounts of life with his wife and constant companion especiallya horrific account of her near-death from hypothermia in awinter storm and the development of his friendship with MichioHoshino, who became a famed photographer of bears before anuntimely death. He also offers a fascinating look at his owndevelopment as a conservationist. The combination of thesevarious elements makes for a charming reverie on Alaska's pastand a thoughtful look at its future. Map. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Finalist for the 2006 Pen Center USA Western award in creative nonfiction.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

In this coming-of-middle-age memoir, Kim Heacox, writing in the tradition of Abbey, McPhee, and Thoreau, discovers an Alaska reborn from beneath a massive glacier, where flowers emerge from boulders, moose swim fjords, and bears cross crevasses with Homeric resolve. In such a place Heacox finds that people are reborn too, and their lives begin anew with incredible journeys, epiphanies, and successes. All in an America free of crass commercialism and overdevelopment.Braided through the larger story are tales of gold prospectors and the cabin they built sixty years ago; John Muir and his intrepid terrier, Stickeen; and a dynamic geology professor who teaches earth science "as if every day were a geological epoch."Nearly two million people come to Alaska every summer, some on large cruise ships, some in single kayaks--all in search of the last great wilderness, the Africa of America. It is exactly the America Heacox finds in this story of paradox, love, and loss.