Chasing Alaska: A Portrait of the Last Frontier Then and Now

Chasing Alaska: A Portrait of the Last Frontier Then and Now

4.8 6
by C. B. Bernard
     
 

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Alaska looms as a mythical, savage place, part nature preserve, part theme park, too vast to understand fully. Which is why C. B. Bernard lashed his canoe to his truck and traded the comforts of the Lower 48 for a remote island and a career as a reporter. He soon learned that a distant relation had made the same trek northwest a century earlier. Captain Joe Bernard

Overview

Alaska looms as a mythical, savage place, part nature preserve, part theme park, too vast to understand fully. Which is why C. B. Bernard lashed his canoe to his truck and traded the comforts of the Lower 48 for a remote island and a career as a reporter. He soon learned that a distant relation had made the same trek northwest a century earlier. Captain Joe Bernard spent decades in Alaska, amassing the largest single collection of Native artifacts ever gathered, giving his name to landmarks and even a now-extinct species of wolf. C. B. chased the legacy of this explorer and hunter up the family tree, tracking his correspondence, locating artifacts donated to museums, and finding his journals at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. Using these journals as guides, he threw himself into the state once known as Seward's Folly, boating to remote islands, hiking distant forests, hunting and fishing the pristine environment, forming a landscape view of the place that had lured him and "Uncle Joe," both men anchored beneath the Northern Lights in freezing, far-flung waters, separated only by time. Here, in crisp, crystalline prose, is his moving portrait of the Last Frontier, then and now.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bernard, a reporter who lived in Alaska for several years, has crafted a memoir of his time there that neatly dovetails with his discovery that he was not the first Bernard to run away from a mundane life in order to explore Alaska. Joe Bernard, C.B.'s Arctic-exploring relative of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, left behind a set of journals of which excerpts are sprinkled throughout. They're gripping tales of men freezing to death on the ice, Inuit life, and survival under the harshest conditions. It's not surprising that Bernard's contemporary musings on Alaska seem lackluster in comparison, but when he rides along with an overextended Alaskan state trooper or flies with a Search-and-Rescue pilot charged with hundreds of miles of surveillance, he's able to peel back his romanticizing of the earlier age to ask intriguing questions about the nature of life in the wilderness. His finest chapter is spent with his distant cousin, a man who knew Joe, knows Alaska, and cannot be summarized. While Bernard overworks tiresome tropes about the shallowness of Alaskan tourists, the story of Joe Bernard—and his descendants' attempts to understand him and each other—makes this worth a read. B & W Photos. (May)
From the Publisher
• National Geographic Intelligent Travel Best Travel Book• Oregon Book Awards Finalist • Publishers Weekly Top Ten Travel Pick • North Shore magazine Beach Read Selection• Bask magazine Top Summer Read• Amazon.com Nature Bestseller• Longfellow Books #1 Bestseller"A thorough and thoroughly enjoyable romp through Alaska ... exhaustive and wildly entertaining. ... The book yields a fascinating crop of adventures and characters. ... He discusses with uncommon intelligence the nature of hunting as a means of subsistence. ... The stories are gripping in the way the best adventure writing is, with enough danger and discovery to keep the reader turning pages way past bedtime. There are polar bears and seasons of privation, plenty of political intrigue and tensions between rival explorers. C. B. Bernard does a fantastic job of collapsing the years between his own experience in Alaska and Joe's to show how the fierce and wild nature of the people who live in Alaska has persisted over the years. ... Indeed, the real protagonist is Alaska itself, which 'makes everything ordinary impossible to bear.' Thanks to C. B. Bernard's assured storytelling and vibrant prose style, we understand that sentiment very well. Jack London would approve."—Minneapolis Star Tribune"Bernard's lyrical descriptions of his journey through the wildly varied landscapes of Alaska and his encounters with its colorful inhabitants make readers feel like they are traveling alongside him every step of the way."—Bask magazine"Bernard is an excellent writer. ... His sense of humor and clever words keep us fascinated, not to mention laughing. ... The purchase of two copies is recommended. You will likely wear out the first one from re-reading." —Sitka Sentinel"At its heart, Chasing Alaska becomes a story not only of Alaska's land, history, and wildlife. It becomes a story about its people. ... Poignant."—Homer News"Elegant snapshots of contemporary life in Alaska."—Willamette Week"Bernard writes movingly of the northern climate and landscape, of solitude and distance, of feeling utterly transformed. ... An illuminating quest to understand his fascinating ancestor and himself."—Booklist"The story of Joe Bernard—and his descendants' attempts to understand him and each other—makes this worth a read." —Publishers Weekly"This lyrical book, with its abundant wisdom, humility, and grace, made me see Alaska anew and with deeper regard. Bravo, C. B." —Kim Heacox, author of The Only Kayak and Visions of a Wild America "C. B. Bernard deftly takes us along on the pivotal journey of following his lodestar. His life and his words flourish for this continental migration, and his journey is like an extended vision quest. Through his eye we gather the extreme diversity of the land and the colorful people who inhabit it, past and present. By strapping us in for the ride, Bernard reminds us that we too might discover the breadths of our own waiting potentials."—Mark Warren, author of Two Winters in a Tipi

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780762778461
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
05/07/2013
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
825,476
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

C. B. Bernard has worked as a newspaper editor, magazine and public radio journalist, senior copywriter at an advertising agency, and marketing and communications specialist. He has been a lecturer at the University of Southern Maine's Stonecoast Writers Conference, a featured writer at the Boston Fiction Festival, and a featured speaker at the University of Massachusetts Lowell's Spring Speakers Series. The Alaska Press Club awarded his series on the oyster farms of Kachemak Bay, and Newsweek columnist Eleanor Clift judged his column about life in Alaska as best in the state. The author of a travel guide to New England bike trails, he has also written extensively for Alaskan Southeaster, Alaska Business Monthly, Pacific Fishing, and Professional Mariner magazine. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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Chasing Alaska: A Portrait of the Last Frontier Then and Now 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
The-Ranger More than 1 year ago
While visiting our son in Alaska I noticed a book on his shelf entitled CHASING ALASKA. I thought I'd do some light reading of a chapter or two. Wow! I couldn't put the book down. It includes both interesting stories of the author's time in Alaska.  But also ties in finding out about a relative who turned out to be an Arctic Explorer. I won't give away the story other than C.B. Bernard follows some trails of his ancestor. This book gives good insight into present day Alaska but also the harsh realities and politics that involved early polar exploration in the early 1900s.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you have visited or are planning a visit to Alaska I highly recommend this book. It is a beautiful picture of Alaska in different areas well worth the time to read. I started and finished the book wanting more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KenneygGK More than 1 year ago
The author puts you right inside of his adventure. The mix of history and Alaskan facts add to the story telling. Waiting patiently for the next book by C.B. Bernard
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KaneH More than 1 year ago
Rare is the great travel book that gives us far more than a recounting of some place new to the writer, but here we have one. This amazing volume skillfully weaves together memoir, history, self-discovery, geography, sociology, and a comparison of wild Alaska a half-century before statehood, with that of nearly a half-century after. Author C.B. Bernard followed a restless, wandering instinct to the shores of our largest, remotest, and most incomprehensible state. What he found there was astonishing, the marks of a remarkable forebear who had carved out a respected and far-flung name in regional exploration a century before. Bernard began his own voyage of discovery, tracking his ancestor's exploits over the course of years, across a huge region. In the process, the author made a number of connections to people past and present, and gives us his take on a place too big to encompass. We get delicious vignettes of the modern life of the state's residents, with tantalizing peeks into the past, and a recounting of the incredible hardships and danger endured by those who braved (and still brave) the Alaskan frontier. While the author himself would say that he has only presented a fragment of experience, what we get is a broad canvas with specific, meaningful details, that gives us a flavor of places most of us will never visit or connect with in a personal way. His reach is staggering: with his canoe, notebook, fly rod, and yes, a rifle at times, the author crisscrossed the vast open ranges, where eagles are as common as city pigeons, and bear and moose are as close and familiar as dogs and cats. The author boated through fog, ice, and ever-present rain, walked the gilded passages of monstrous cruise ships, flew in cramped quarters in shuddering bush planes, and traversed thousands of square miles of glaciers, volcanoes, and muskeag, while avoiding the ubiquitous bears. The writing is so vivid, we can almost taste the seal and salmon, feel the constant rain, and see the sweeping majestic vistas of mountain ranges. All the while, he recounts the changes in his own life from his repeated visits to various Alaskan locales, and his reluctant times away. How wonderful the example that by observing something else we can discern more about our own nature. So grab this book and settle back for your own journey of discovery. You'll be glad you did.