Do You Want to go to Alaska? Start Here, with Walking Home by Lynn Schooler
I'm from Alaska, and that was really hot stuff with my new grade school classmates when they learned that my family had just migrated South to the Lower 48, from the land of igloos and the polar bear.
That was ages ago, but after reading Walking Home, elaborating on a journey by the writer of The Blue Bear: A True Story of Friendship and Discovery in the Alaskan Wild, my passion about the land is renewed tenfold.
Schooler doesn't just visit the wild country - he lives in it. His journey, the subject of his latest book, is not just a hike; it's an endurance test permeated with the riches of a mind immersed in history, humanity, the sociology of the area, a love of nature that exceeds comprehension, and a willingness to open the doors of his heart to the reader.
I hold the book like a treasure chest full of narratives
and lore about my favorite state, and the characters that infused its lure in me. My grandpa took his young city bride on the 1915 journey to a seashore home on the Bering Seacoast, aboard the US Cutter Bear, establishing the state as a part of my heritage. My mom was born there too.
Prior to reading the first chapter,
I knew that Captain Cook played prominent in Alaskan exploration by sea, but I hadn't expected to enter into the intrigues of his journeys in what I thought would be a personal accounting of the author's trek around a mountainous landscape.
But soon I began to feel the anguish of the early explorers, including Alexei Chirikov and Vitus Bering, monumental captains of worldwide ventures, and the perplexities of the native Tlingit peoples of the Alaskan coast, as they encountered what they thought might be spirits coming off the sea.
Once the stage was set I could feel myself walking
in Schooler's footsteps, drinking from his coffee mug on his boat Swift, then lashing on his pack as the meat of his hike began, after stowing the Swift for the return leg of his journey.
I sweated fear as my heart pounded, my head swirling and throbbing throughout the crazy encounter with a predator bear, as I also felt the soothing sight of his homeward glance as he headed the boat back over the sound towards the reality of his changed, once again solo, life at home.
I'm more than ever determined to return, to walk
the paths and sail the waters of my ancestors, greatly informed by the revelations of this contemporary writer, philosopher, fisherman, hunter, wildlife guide, builder, woodworker, mountain man, whose understanding of life is deftly punctuated by a wealth of knowledge far richer than gold.
Schooler's earlier memoir offers the reader a chance to venture into the wilds of an Alaska they need never visit as intimately as it reveals the inner struggle of the man and the memories.
It may seem unusual to gain access to such introspection and that is the jewel of the author's skill, combining the rugged and the soul searching humanity in an ever inquisitive manner.
The writer is a master researcher who spins a history of naval battle with the acumen gained only from having known personal peril.
Take a trip into the unknown territory vicariously in a story you'll long remember.