It's time right now to start thinking seriously about whether this will be the year you actually take that cruise to Alaska you've been talking about for so long. The Inside Passage? Glacier Bay? All the way up to Anchorage? Maybe add on a trip to Denali and Fairbanks?
Here's a book of fine photos to whet your appetite.
Alaska by photographer Fred Hirschmann has proved to be a popular title, and a third printing was recently issued. Hirschmann lives in Alaska's Matanuska Valley. He has done three previous photo-essay books on the state, among other titles, and for this book he hiked, paddled, kayaked, and flew all over Alaska's widely varied landscape.
A few photos are routine a caribou, a totem pole, a ptarmigan in a tree, a lone man fly-fishing in a river pictures that might have been taken anywhere. But the great majority of the 166 color photos in this oversize book, many of them filling a full page, are unmistakably and beautifully Alaska.
Hirschmann likes the random patterns of nature (I do, too), and he's caught the polished rocks in a dry riverbed; crimson fireweed and dark green ferns scattered together in the same field; the autumn yellows and reds of thimbleberry and highbush cranberry contrasted with the green of a hemlock forest; the tangled lichens and mosses that turn a forest into a dreamscape; green arctic lupine growing amid red alpine bearberry; bear prints in the mud; and an assortment of other striking fractal patterns.
But he has also caught the big drama of the Alaskan landscape. Here are the snows ofDenalireflected in a lake, the rugged Wrangell Mountains (spreading across two pages) in our largest national park (13.2 million acres), the icy and barren beauty of Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, the deep blue color of an iceberg from the Bering Glacier, plus lakes, rivers, shores, and more.
There's also the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts and a lonely Russian Orthodox church outlined against a forbidding sky. There are bald eagles on the wing, sculptures in snow and ice (both natural and man-made), and the Northern Lights illuminating the sky. And a great aerial view of a cruise ship perhaps the one you'll be on pushing through floating ice.
The book also includes a lengthy essay called "North to the Future" by Suzan Nightingale, who teaches writing at the University of Alaska and writes for the Anchorage Daily News. Alaska, she says, "is in the details," and you'll find many of them in Fred Hirschmann's Alaska.