Reading the North

March 4, 2012 

The Ice Pilots: Flying With the Mavericks

of the Great White North

By Michael Vlessides (Douglas & McIntyre, $21.95)

The blurb: Weaving in history about Bush pilots, Michael Vlessides follows the adventures of Buffalo Airways, which uses World War II-era propeller planes to haul fuel, supplies and passengers to remote outposts in the Arctic. Based on the cable television series.

Excerpt: “Frostbite wasn’t the only thing going through my head as I boarded the Bombardier Dash 8 scheduled to take me from the relatively balmy climes of Calgary, Alberta, to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, one clear mid-January morning. Truth be told, though, it ranked high in the panoply of thoughts swirling through my mind: Will Buffalo Joe like me? Does a wind chill of -42° feel any different to a forty-six-year-old body than it does to a thirty-year-old one? Just how safe is a seventy-year-old plane, anyway?

“Those questions, and a hundred others, were bound to be answered during the first of what would prove to be many trips to Yellowknife in the coming months. In the meantime, though, I settled into the modern — if not particularly spacious — comfort of the plane, one of the most popular regional turboprop airplanes in the world.”

Frommer’s Alaska

By Kris Capps, Charlotte Glover, David Kiffer, et al. (John Wiley and Sons, Inc., $21.99)

The blurb: This traveler’s guide to Alaska includes reviews of hotels and restaurants, plus sights, itineraries, hundreds of photos and maps throughout.

Excerpt: “If your time in Alaska is limited, then northern Southeast Alaska serves as the perfect microcosm of nearly all that Alaska has to offer: spectacular scenery, amazing wildlife, and miles of barely touched wilderness surrounding the isolated frontier communities that serve as 'cities’ in Alaska. It features the largest national forest in America, the 17-million acre Tongass National Forest, and hundreds of islands ranging in size from barely big enough to stand on to ones larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island.

“Juneau, the state capital, holds nearly half of Southeast Alaska’s 75,000 residents. It’s the only state capital with no road system, though there always seems to be an expensive plan being considered to punch a road through the wilderness. It’s a community with dual personality, politics in the winter and tourism in the summer, where the residents revel in the great outdoors and enjoy fishing, hiking, and hunting most of the year.”

— Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News

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