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VINE VOICEon March 2, 2002
If you're new to John Muir's writings, please don't start with this one. It's a worthwhile read in its own right, don't get me wrong. But read _My First Summer in the Sierra_ or a Muir biography like Michael P. Cohen's _The Pathless Way_ before you move on to this one. Get a good dose of what the naturalist is like and learn some of his background, and then you'll be in the proper frame of mind to tackle _Travels in Alaska_. Otherwise, this book is just one glacier after another. And bless his heart, Muir wants to see them all. And climb them and explore them and sketch them and hike their entire lengths and write about them ad nauseum. He leaves his companions in his wake and puts himself squarely in the face of isolated danger over and over again. Read this book first, and you'll think he's insane. Know his roots in Wisconsin and his good work in California, and you'll be better able to appreciate what he thinks of and does in the Alaska of the late 1800s.
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VINE VOICEon September 24, 2002
I confess up front, it's been a few years since I read Muir's Travels in Alaska. Yet significant aspects I remember well. Given Muir's exuberance for life and almost everything he encounters in his travels, one almost looses view of Muir the botanist and geologist. But not quite. Here we find the author contemplating the activity of glaciers and documenting the flora of southeast Alaska. Muir (who tended strongly toward vegetarianism) gleefully entertaining himself by foiling duck hunters. Baffling the locals by happily wandering out into major storms.
The book is a journal of Muir's 1879, 1880, and 1890 trips (he wouldn't mind if we called them adventures) to SE Alaska's glaciers, rivers, and temperate rain forests. He died while preparing this volume for publication.
I remind myself, and anyone reading this, that Muir isn't for every reader. And, as other reviewers have stated, this may not be the volume in which to introduce oneself to the one-of-a-kind John Muir. One reviewer doesn't think that Muir is entirely credible in these accounts. I won't say whether or not this is wrong, but I tend to a different view. For some of us -- and certainly for Muir -- wilderness is a medicine, a spiritual tonic, so to speak. For the individual effected in this way, physical impediments and frailties rather dissolve away when he is alone in wildness. I once heard Graham Mackintosh (author of Into a Desert Place) speak of this. In all of his travels alone in the desert, he doesn't recall having ever been sick. This may not sound credible to some, but I strongly suspect it is true.
If you like Muir's writings, read this book. If you like the stuff of Best Sellers, perhaps you should look elsewhere.
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on February 8, 2008
The beauty of this wonderful reprinting is how it shows John Muir as a person, how it helps us to understand the dynamic and overwhelming beauty of Alaska, and the changes in the people of Alaska. Muir's complete, tireless, and joyful commitment to nature comes through on every page. The book unintentionally provides an excellent portrait of the kind of inexhaustible devotion it takes to change the world as did Muir. The book also provides a stunning portrait of Alaska in the latter part of the 19th Century and allows one to compare the Alaska of those days with Alaska of earlier times and of today. The biggest changes are in the glaciers and in the people. The glaciers have receded dramatically as a natural part of their centuries' long retreat. It is interesting to compare what Muir saw with the experience of Vancouver almost exactly 100 years earlier (ca. 1793). Vancouver could hardly enter Glacier Bay. Muir could enter quite some distance, but the glaciers were still the dominant features. Today, the glaciers have largely receded into deep valleys. Muir encountered people in Alaska living largely as they had for centuries. They were hunters and fishermen and lived in small groups along the shore line. As Jonathan Raban points out in the intricately woven fabric of his sublime book "Passage to Juneau," the people of southeast Alaska considered the sea to be the real environment of their lives while the land was considered dangerous and unknowable. They lived along the shore and knew how to live off and with the sea year round. The lives of the Alaskan people are very different today but greatly influenced by the past. Raban often characterizes Muir's writing as overblown and florid. However, it is a portrait of a man, a maritime land and a people. To do justice to those three, the book had to be what it is - an astonishingly colorful and detailed portrait in words.
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on October 29, 2002
From the title, one would think this a type of travel journal, a panorama of episodes along the way, a sequence of stations between the starting off point and the destination. Instead, the overall weight of the book is given to glaciers, their descriptions, their influence on the landscape, their geological record, the discovery of new glaciers, and other characteristics of these moving rivers of ice. While Muir offers descriptive powers unequaled among authors on nature, never repeating himself though constantly repeating his subject, the sheer repetition tends to bog the work down. Two whole pages might contribute to our view of a particular glacier, and suddenly Muir reports that he's finished a 200-mile leg of his journey on foot. He tells us when he's climbed a glacier, and along the way we've missed an entire week. Time and space almost have no medium in this publication, utterly lost when gazing upon a glacier. For nature lovers who will never go to Alaska, the descriptions in this book make the ranges and glaciers come alive in print, but as a dramatic journey, a travelogue, or a field manual for the Alaskan bush, this book forms only a vague shadow.
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on April 12, 2014
This is John Muir's account, compiled at the end of his life from earlier diary entries, of three separate trips to the fjords and glaciers of SE Alaska. John Muir's exuberant prose, and excitement at each new vista keep the pages turning. I was aware he originally argued for glacial origins of many geologic features; what I didn't know was that he was a trained botanist. Expect to hear all about the flowers and trees at each camp. I would've like to hear about Muir's travels to Unalaska, but these three accounts are excellent.
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on May 4, 2014
I had read the book before, but needed another copy. John Muir, the saint of environmentalists, gives some wonderful views of the Indians of Alaska in this and also of his tremendous fire for exploration, matched by none, I believe. Also he goes into detail of the examinations of plant life, a part that may be a little thick for some.
His story of crossing a crevasse [by chipping at ice] to excape a frozen death with a little dog [Stickeen] is remarkable.
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on February 11, 2012
First of all, I love Muir and Alaska, so the fact that this book was free blew me away. What a treat! It is so interesting to read about his style of mountaineering through Alaska, basically a little bread and his ice climbing gear. What a man!
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on September 6, 2014
Most John Muir fans don't realize that he spent much more time in Alaska than in the Yosemite region of the High Sierra in Central California. This particular chronicle of his climbing adventures and glacier studies in Alaska is fascinating.
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John Muir's "Travels In Alaska" is his accouts of his trips to Southeast Alaska in 1879, 1880, and 1890. Southeast Alaska 125 years ago was sparsely settled and poorly explored; Muir's adventurous spirit and enquiring mind led him to investigate the numerous inlets and glaciers in the area, including the magnificent and much-celebrated Glacier Bay.

Muir's simple, muscular prose weaves a fascinating narrative out of descriptions of the people, wildlife, and geology he encounters on his journey, suffused with his endless sense of wonder at the landscapes in which he saw the hand of God. The reader can hardly help but be carried along by Muir's enthusiasm. Muir's descriptions may be most relevant to those traveling Southeast Alaska by cruise ship, for a sense of what the landscape looked like before the population reached today's size and spread. Those not interested in the travel aspects of the book and in numerous descriptions of glaciers may find this book less interesting.

This book is highly recommended to fans of John Muir's writings, and to those planning a trip through Southeast Alaska.
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on April 11, 2013
I came away from this reading with a new understanding and respect for this man, John Muir, mainly because of his almost superhuman endurance and absolute fearlessness in the face of the natural obstacles that confronted him in his explorations of the glaciers of the Alaska coastal region. He approached Nature with a reverence that seemingly protected and preserved him throughout many dangerous adventures, experiences during which a lesser man would have quickly given up or perished.
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