Reading the North

Kathleen Macknicki

Hazelet's Journal

George Cheever Hazelet (Old Stone Press, $29.95)

The blurb: George Cheever Hazelet, inspired by the great tycoons at the dawn of the Industrial Age, became one himself in the chicory-coffee market. But the markets crashed and coffee became as cheap as the dirt the farmers were trying to cultivate. In the midst of this calamitous financial crisis of the late 1890s, he turned to the one opportunity that played no favorites -- the Klondike Gold Rush. Hazelet was one of the adventurous souls who went to Alaska in 1898 to seek his fortune. He carved his own path across frozen tundra and snow-covered glaciers to a valley in Alaska rarely seen by a white man. Here he found not just gold but coal and oil and rich shafts of copper whose size promised breathtaking fortunes.

Excerpt: "Oct. 14, 1900. Valdez once more, arrived about 11 a.m., horses about done up, but came through. We reached government barn with horses on the morning of the 9th, I having gone on ahead the night before. Found the boys all well and making what hay they could find, which was about 100 pounds per man per day. Was awakened by an earthquake. I was dreaming a strange dream at the time, something out of the ordinary for me, and all at once became conscious that the log cabin was rocking back and forth like a cradle. A great noise filled the air and I asked aloud what it was and at same time almost answered that it was an earthquake. The boys were all awake at once and all lay quite still taking in the awful workings of nature as best we could. The earth seemed to tremble for at least a minute. It was more like the actions of the muscles of an animal immediately after death than anything else I can think of, and then suddenly, as if all the pent up energy had gathered in one place, it gave a roll that seemed as if the cabin must surely tumble down. This was followed by another and then all was still. The stillness more pronounced because of the terrible noise kept up during the previous minutes.

"It brought to one's mind how small and insignificant he was and mighty forces surround him on all sides."


Wild by Nature: Selected Prose, Poetry and Essays by an Alaskan Woman

Terry Herda Gucker (AuthorHouse, $19.95)

The blurb: In this collection you can experience "God's Country" through the eyes of an adventurous author who revels in the untamed wilderness of Alaska. Here also are the seasons of personal growth and family -- life with all its joys and sorrows ...

Excerpt: "Hunting and nature have always played an important part in my life and in my marriage, at times punctuating important milestones for me. For example, when I gave birth to our daughter Rena in September and my husband, Jerry, had been moose hunting. As I was wheeled out of delivery with Rena in my arms, he plopped a hand-picked autumnal bouquet of mountain foliage in my lap and, bending over to kiss me, he thanked me for our lovely little daughter. And when I gave birth to our beautiful son, Kurt, also in September, Jerry had been goat hunting and dropped the bleeding goat horns in my lap at visiting time, much to the chagrin of the nurses on staff -- but much to my delight!

"My love affair with nature and hunting began when I was a young child on my family farm in Minnesota. It abounded with trapping animals and colorful ring-necked pheasants. I was further drawn into the world of trapping, hunting, and guns by my brother Jim's similar interests and I idolized him. I felt privileged when allowed to share his activities in the secluded den above the hog house with his friend, Cody. By lantern light, we sharpened knives, cleaned guns, harmonized western songs and yodeled while skinning, cleaning, and inverting the hides of various animals, stretching them over boards to cure.

"An older brother, John, who'd been sent to Alaska with the military and stayed to improve on a home site in the foothills of the Chugach Mountains, paid a visit home. He told of a land where hunting was plentiful, space was boundless, naturally spectacular and a man 'could be his own person.' I ate it up!"


Highway Angler

Gunnar Pedersen (Fishing Alaska Publications, $19.95)

The blurb: Packed with facts , cross-referenced and easy to read, "The Highway Angler" describes in detail locations, points of access, species available, terminal gear and tackle, best techniques, fish timing and more .

Excerpt: "Fishing Tips

"Lakes And Ponds

"1. Fish according to the seasons. Late spring, fall, and early winter are probably the best times to fish lakes and ponds because of ideal water temperatures and high oxygen levels. Fish are often lethargic in mid-summer and late winter due to low oxygen levels and too warm or cold water temperatures.

"2. Fish after break-up. Trout, char, grayling, and pike are often concentrated fairly close to shore in shallow water as they prepare to spawn, engage in a feeding frenzy, or migrate to summer feeding areas.

"3. Try before and after freeze-up. All resident species are very active at this time, feeding heavily near shore in shallow water.

"4. Concentrate on feeding areas. Fish thrive best in areas of the lake where there is an abundance of feed. Inlets and outlets, vegetated shorelines, and submerged structures are very productive places. During windy conditions, avoid protected areas and focus effort where wave activity is greatest.

"5. Fish the low light hours. All species are most active during early morning and evening or on cloudy days, especially in summer. Avoid bright, mid-day sunshine as fish become shy and move into deep water or shaded areas."

Compiled by Kathleen Macknicki, Anchorage Daily News

Kathleen Macknicki
Anchorage Daily News