Reading the North

Anchorage Daily NewsFebruary 16, 2013 

Hitchhiking 45,000 Miles to Alaska

By Chuck Wirschem (Chuck Wirschem)

The blurb: From 1960-64, Churck Wirschem traveled 44 states and three countries, from Florida to New York to California and eventually to Alaska. This book is about that life on the road.

 

Excerpt: "I caught my first ride in North Muskegon, Michigan, in 1951. I was nine years old and in the fourth grade. The school bus left immediately after school and if I wasn't on it, I missed after-school sports with my buddies. I told my mom that I'd gotten rides home with parents of friends, but most of the time I hitchhiked from Ruddiman Avenue to Buys Road where we lived.

"All through my youth, I read Outdoor Life magazines, books on Yellowstone National Park, and anything about fishing, hunting, mountains, and rivers in the American West and in Canada. I was unknowingly priming myself for adventure and travel in future years. I was raised on the beaches of Western Michigan, which also came to influence my travels and activities. Even today, my favorite activity is beachcombing the western shores of Alaska with my Super Cub looking for bones, ivory, and glass floats."

An Alaskan Life of High Adventure

By Jim Hale (Tate Publishing, $15.99)

The blurb: Surviving earthquakes, avalanches, plane crashes and the bitter cold, author Jim Hale recounts his adventures as a mountain guide and explorer in one of the country's most desolate regions.

 

Excerpt: "Much of Alaska is covered with ice. The glaciers and the waterfalls that would freeze into solid pillars in the cold winter months provide ice climbers with a multitude of opportunities for exciting climbing. In December of 1977, technical ice climbing, the climbing of long vertical waterfalls, was in its infancy. The tools we used, the ice axes, crampons, and ice hammers, compared to those available today, were the equivalent of fishing with a club.

"Late that month, a friend, John Dillman, suggested, 'Hey Jim, what do you think about going down to Valdez and trying Bridalveil Falls?' Intrigued with the possibilities, we drove the two hundred and fifty miles to Keystone Canyon, near Valdez. Up to this time Bridalveil and its longer companion, Keystone Green Steps, had only been climbed in multi-day efforts. We wanted to see if it could be done in one push."

 

Narwhals: Arctic Whales in a Melting World

By Todd McLeish (University of Washington Press)

The blurb: The author takes readers along as he travels far beyond the Arctic Circle to join teams of scientific researchers who study the life cycles and the mysterious tusks of the worlds northernmost whale.

 

Excerpt: "Narhwals have been surrounded by mystery, mythology, and awe for centuries. They've been celebrated as sea unicorns, held up as proof of the existence of a land-based unicorn, and cherished for their high-quality oils. They've been a vital source of meat in the diet of Arctic natives and important to them as a cultural icon. Today they are surrounded, as well, by great concern for the potential harm that could come to them from retreating sea ice, increased shipping and oil exploration, and changes in environmental conditions caused by a warming planet. For a mammal that is so uniquely adapted to thriving in the numbing waters of the Arctic, warming is a significant threat, especially at the rate that it is taking place today."

 

Compiled by Chad Walker, Anchorage Daily News

 

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