Reading the north

Fish This!

Andrew Cremata (Lynn Canal Publishing, $15.95)

The blurb: This is a book about fishing. Well, kind of ...

Fishing is the thread that binds this collection of stories together. This book is not intended to teach you how to catch coho salmon or tie a knot or better understand the tides. There are plenty of books that already focus on the how's and why's of angling, but in my experience fishing is far more than the makeup of a tackle box.

For me, fishing has always been an escape, a way to develop deep friendships, an excuse to engage with the natural world, and a means of finding peace. I'm also not opposed to catching big fish and enjoying a beer in between bites.

The stories you will read were written between 2001 and 2013 in Skagway -- my chosen home. I spent my first summer here in 1996, fresh out of Tampa, Fla., the city where I grew up. Once I got a taste of living on the fringes of the frontier, I couldn't get it out of my system. So I got rid of everything I owned, hopped in my car and never looked back.

Excerpt: Thoughts of one's mortality when waiting for a floatplane in the middle of nowhere are unwelcome.

After 10 minutes of trying to get a signal on the satellite phone, to no avail, all we could do was wait. My guide sat on a large log and loaded his shotgun. Obviously, the sight of the bear skeleton also had an effect on the seasoned professional, and this actually made me feel better about the situation.

Sometime around 7:30, he made another attempt at calling the floatplane company. This time he managed to get through, but it was obvious the connection was tenuous.

"Hey there Bob, where the hell are you?" he said. "I can't HEAR you, Bob. ... Where is our float plane? Yes ... Yes ... Can you repeat that? Okay."

He calmly pressed a button on the face of the phone and then slowly collapsed the antenna. He lifted his head, looked me in the eye, and said, "Our plane had a flat tire."

Fortunately, he also explained that another floatplane was just taking off in Sitka and would be picking us up within 40 minutes.

When I heard the sound of the plane, daylight was at a premium. I could still make out its form as it banked around the mouth of the inlet and turned toward our position. Saying I felt relieved would be an understatement. Had we spent the night on that beach, we would have been woefully under-prepared.

There are a few good lessons that this experience taught me. Pack extra food.

Understand the limitations of your gear.

Always make sure your floatplane has a spare tire.

Alaska on the Go: Exploring the 49th State With Children

Erin Kirkland (Snowy Owl Books, $17.95)

The blurb:

Nearly 2 million people visit Alaska every year, drawn to its spectacular views and endless activities. But with such size and so many options, it can seem overwhelming when it comes to planning a family vacation to the 49th state. The best place to start? With a local, of course.

Journalist and Alaska resident Erin Kirkland knows every corner of the state, and she has crossed thousands of miles with her son. In "Alaska on the Go," she offers a fresh take on exploring some of the most beautiful land in the world, with tips and tricks that only an insider knows. Serving as the perfect tour guide, Kirkland identifies the best and most kid-friendly destinations in cities across Alaska. She offers practical advice on everything from restaurants to rest stops and from weather surprises to wild animals. Photos, maps and sample itineraries make it easy for parents to plan a trip that will delight and entertain everyone.

The only family travel guide to Alaska written by a current Alaskan, "Alaska on the Go" makes the state more accessible than ever. Whether traveling via car, cruise ship or dog sled, this practical, portable guide will open up a new world of memorable adventures.

Excerpt: Savoring Seldovia With the Kids

Across Kachemak Bay, nestled in cozy little cove, lies the community of Seldovia. Inaccessible by car (remember, the highway ends in Homer), part of Seldovia's charm lies in getting there. Whether by Alaska Marine Highway ferry (75 minutes, www.ferryalaska.com), private charter boat or small plane (expensive), traveling to Seldovia translates into adventure for kids.

With a mere 300 full-time residents, Seldovia is a laid-back collection of artists, fishermen and folks who don't want to live the fast life, but that doesn't mean people are lacking in the fun department. A day trip to Seldovia means great hiking, biking and exploring the ocean's treasures.

Start by visiting the Seldovia Chamber of Commerce website (www.seldoviachamber.org) for detailed descriptions of transportation options from Homer; we usually take the ferry and spend a few hours, then return in time for a late dinner. Our activities include a fabulous 2-mile hike along the Otterbahn trail near the Seldovia school that travels into an old-growth spruce forest, along a meadow, and ends up on a rocky, secluded beach where we've spent hours viewing otters, whales and sea birds. Take a picnic, water and your bear-aware behavior.

Back in town, eat at the Tidepool Cafe before exploring the old section of the village, where homes are built over the water and you'll feel as if you've been transported back in time. A great way to see town is via bicycle; rent one in Anchorage or bring your own and ride miles and miles of packed dirt roads ...

Children will find the small playground next to the boat harbor a winner; then swing into Parrot's for an ice-cream treat before catching the ferry back to Homer. Make sure you watch for rafts of otters, humpback whales and puffins, too.