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Travels in Alaska (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – June 11, 2002
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Take a trip to last century's Alaska through Muir's clean, easy-going, enthusiastic prose. He wrote the way he took pictures, with insight, attention, care and genuine feeling. It's a lovely look into a beautiful land and its inhabitants the way it used to be, told in a flowing narrative that is far less rushed than contemporary travel tales. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
“Probably no other man in this country has his enthusiasm for mountains and glaciers . . . united with so rare a literary gift.”—John Burroughs
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He travelled to Alaska five times over a 30 year period. This book, only completed a few years before his death, polishes the field notes of his earlier trips and offers almost unedited, his journals from the last journey. Muir's interests begin with geology, specifically how the U-shaped valleys of both Yosemite and the Alaskan fjord-land resulted from glacial actions. Beginning with ice, they include the land, the trees, the waters, the fish, the First Americans living in the harsh beautiful world, the scientists, the missionaries, transportation, food, and in a chapter that cries to be read aloud, Muir's experience of a sunrise like the eighth day of Creation and of the Northern Lights.
One remembers vignettes of one's own travels. So vivid, so immediate are these stories that they become part of your own memories. Raining is it? Experience laying your already soggy sleeping bag down in a bog so wet you strip off and shiver your way through the night, then arise---not like new-made bread---but to wring the water from your clothes and bag and slog on. Thinking of what it would be like to walk across that glacier? Start out early, accompanied by a dog who had more loyalty than brains and got over jagged ice frise-de-cheval points, across crevasses, up treacherous slopes----to get to the other side, and then come back at night, having to encourage the now-alarmed dog to leap those widening chasms, risking your own neck to get the crittur home.
Those going to Alaska could hardly have a better companion. The book is portable and a bargain. And those who travel widely through the frigates of books, like Emily, will find their world enlarged and enobled in the company of this good and brave man who did so much to preserve our wild, beautiful places.
His story of crossing a crevasse [by chipping at ice] to excape a frozen death with a little dog [Stickeen] is remarkable.