The Only Kayak: Journeys into the Heart of Alaska by Kim Heacox, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
The Only Kayak: Journeys into the Heart of Alaska

The Only Kayak: Journeys into the Heart of Alaska

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by Kim Heacox
     
 

"I live in the sunlight of friends and the shadows of glaciers."
So begins The Only Kayak, a coming-of-middle-age memoir by Kim Heacox, who writes in the tradition of Edward Abbey, John McPhee, and Henry David Thoreau, with a voice at times tender, irate, funny, and deeply humane.
What does it mean to fall in love with a place that cannot stay the same? When

Overview


"I live in the sunlight of friends and the shadows of glaciers."
So begins The Only Kayak, a coming-of-middle-age memoir by Kim Heacox, who writes in the tradition of Edward Abbey, John McPhee, and Henry David Thoreau, with a voice at times tender, irate, funny, and deeply humane.
What does it mean to fall in love with a place that cannot stay the same? When do you hold on? When do you let go? As Kim discovers in this provocative story, we need to be better students of change rather than the instruments of change. Born in Idaho's Bitterroot Mountains and raised in Spokane, Kim moves to Alaska as a young park ranger and discovers a land and sea newly reborn from beneath a retreating glacier. "People are reborn here too," he writes. "This place is that powerful. In Glacier Bay you don't inherit, you create. You practice resurrection because the land and sea show you that anything is possible. Moose swim across fiords. Bears traverse glaciers. Flowers emerge from granite boulders. Inlets fill with glacial silt. Shorelines shift and nautical charts become obsolete as the land - the actual crust of the Earth - rebounds after the immense weight of glacial ice (of just a few hundred years ago) has been lifted."
In this tale of friendship, risk, and hope, we find a story of coming home and learning to live gracefully among the deep blue glaciers of Alaska, a place Kim calls "the Africa of America." His words offer us a chance to look into our own selves and ask how we might live with greater deliberation, purpose, and thankfulness for the wild places we still have.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Writer and photographer Heacox delivers a genuine, deeply moving account of the past 25 years he has spent living in Glacier Bay, Alaska. . . . Heacox's ability to use this tension—between the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness and the creeping encroachment of modern life—is the thread that unites his varied observations, and it's what gives the book its uniqueness and keeps it from being another pale imitation of Coming into the Country, John McPhee's late-1970s classic on Alaska. . . . A charming reverie on Alaska's past and a thoughtful look at its future." --Publishers Weekly

“A long-time resident of Alaska’s Glacier Bay reflects on and explores human accountability toward the area. . . . Heacox offers great descriptions of the region’s elemental beauty: light like green apples, monarch yellow cottonwoods, bruised clouds and long rains. [It is a] tender chronicle of a miracle in process, with glints of its rarity thrown by the handful from these pages.” --Kirkus Reviews

"'Make access easy, and a place dies,' is his motto, and therein lies the paradox that Heacox tries to resolve in this book. . . . As he wrestles with such conundrums, Heacox creates a nicely balanced environmental portrait of Alaska's ice-cut coast." --Booklist

"Heacox is a poet, a scholar, a naturalist and a wild man who, in this great book, weaves together the story of the land and the people. The Only Kayak helps us reconnect what the Lakota call the the sacred hoop of life. I want to give this book to a dozen friends and,dear reader, I want to share it with you. Bravo, Kim Heacox." --Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia and The Shelter of Each Other

"Few have wandered more deeply and thoughtfully through the wilds of Alaska than Kim Heacox. Those who know him best through his extraordinary photographs now have the chance to accompany him in words through some of the wildest and most beautiful country anywhere on earth. The Only Kayak is a delight." --William Cronon, Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas Research Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

"With this powerful book, Kim Heacox enters the first rank of writers on the wild, the human, and the mix between the two. It's set in one of America's most spectacular landscapes, but it's also set in one of its kindest, most open hearts. A real triumph." --Bill McKibben, author The End of Nature, and Wandering Home: A Long Walk Through America's Most Hopeful Region

"Perhaps more than ever before, we need passionate, eloquent voices speaking out for the American land. . . . Kim Heacox's writing evokes the fundamental paradox of our times: the vast, beauty of Alaska shining brilliantly against the dark, encroaching peril of industrial America. Anyone who cares about our remaining wild places, and about the conscience of those who stand in defense of our natural heritage, should read this extraordinary book. --Richard Nelson, author of The Island Within and Make Prayers to the Raven

The Only Kayak is an important and beautiful book about what it means to fall in love with a place—not just any place, but the wild, dangerous, breath-catching, gorgeous Glacier Bay. And not just any love, but a wistful, sometimes desperate yearning to protect a wilderness even as it melts away. Kim Heacox is what this world needs—a defender of the land as fierce and funny as Abbey or Thoreau.” –Kathleen Dean Moore, author of Riverwalking and The Pine Island Paradox

"Heacox's book is both a coming-of-(middle)age memoir and a love story, with Alaska serving as both the journey's end and the beloved. While Heacox writes passionately about his home in Glacier Bay, he also acknowledges the inevitability of change there. In prose that is both lyrical and powerful, he gives the reader a complete picture of the beauty of that wilderness and what will be lost in its deterioration." --Book News

"...this book is about: learning to walk with purpose. It's about a lot of things, actually--love, community, heartbreak, hope for people and place. It's about how living an unexamined life is far riskier than sleeping on a beach with bears." --Anchorage Daily News

--"The naturalist expert for National Geographic Expeditions is a talented writer, a good storyteller, and passionate about his state; and he takes [us] through his journey of falling in love, aging and learning when to let go." --Everett Herald (Washington)

In praise of An American Idea: The Making of the National Parks:
"With all the drama and color of a good novel, An American Idea is a compelling presentation of the long and difficult journey that resulted in one of our nation's most significant accomplishments." --Robert Redford

In praise of the novel, Caribou Crossing:
"This book is superb in many ways, refreshingly original, well-plotted, with interesting characters who are richly imagined. Caribou Crossing is our new Monkey Wrench Gang, and Kim Heacox our northern Edward Abbey." --Jonathan Waterman, author of Arctic Crossing and In the Shadow of Denali

"With Grisham-esque pacing, Heacox adroitly combines political intrigue with poisonous ideologies [surrounding the proposed drilling of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge], taking the reader on a high stakes game of cat and mouse that reaches from the summit of Capitol Hill to the depths of a wilderness ice flow." --Booklist

"A novel doesn't get much closer to the headlines than this one--or much closer to the truth about what counts in this economy. Kim Heacox provides a great read--and a great service--in this fine book." --Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature

"The intrigue is compelling, the passion inspiring, but the moral heart of this book is as powerful as the ancient rivers of the north." --Sherry Simpson, author of The Way Winter Comes

In praise of Alaska Light:
"Kim Heacox sneaks up on you. His essays start like lazy rivers that recall pleasant times and places. Then the water gets swifter and the rocks begin to poke up and you have to pay attention. His message about Alaska says it straight: There's no where else to run to. It's the last ridge of many we have crossed, guarding the last uncluttered horizons left to us." --William E. Brown, historian and author of This Last Treasure

In praise of Shackleton: The Antartic Challenge:
"Those who read this excellent book cannot be overwhelmed by a story of remarkable character." --Sir Edmund Hillary

Publishers Weekly
Writer and photographer Heacox delivers a genuine, deeply moving account of the past 25 years he has spent living in Glacier Bay, Alaska, the last wild shore, nine hundred miles north of Seattle and nine hundred years in the past. This work's title comes from the first kayaking trip Heacox took there in 1979. As he explored the bay with a friend, they found themselves the sole kayak in that body of water, alone, and escaped, left to wonder how long it could last, this wildness and grace. Heacox's ability to use this tension between the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness and the creeping encroachment of modern life is the thread that unites his varied observations, and it's what gives the book its uniqueness and keeps it from being another pale imitation of Coming into the Country, John McPhee's late-1970s classic on Alaska. Heacox (An American Idea; Shackleton; etc.) deftly renders highly personal accounts of life with his wife and constant companion especially a horrific account of her near-death from hypothermia in a winter storm and the development of his friendship with Michio Hoshino, who became a famed photographer of bears before an untimely death. He also offers a fascinating look at his own development as a conservationist. The combination of these various elements makes for a charming reverie on Alaska's past and a thoughtful look at its future. Map. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A long-time resident of Alaska's Glacier Bay reflects on and explores human accountability toward the area. "Does that which nurtures us in turn deserve our nurturing?" asks Heacox (Caribou Crossing, , 2001, etc.), but it's not really a question. What nurtures him, and has for the last 25 years, is storm-thrummed, ice-cut Glacier Bay: "a world in transition from bare rock to bears, a magical place, a miracle place," as his geology professor told him. That was enough to get the author into a kayak with a friend back in 1979 to paddle its length, an immaculately described journey. Forever changed by the experience of piloting a lone boat in 3.3-million acres of wilderness, he stayed on. Heacox offers great descriptions of the region's elemental beauty: light like green apples, monarch yellow cottonwoods, bruised clouds and long rains. Fearful of the ever-increasing human impact on the bay, from commercial fishing to industrial tourism, he remembers to judge himself as he goes about judging others; after all, he himself moved in and built a house on a handsome piece of acreage. But Heacox is nonetheless protective of his home place, and he finds himself hoisted into position as president of Friends of Glacier Bay, a group dedicated to preserving the area's ecology and its opportunities for solitude. They wage a political fight to keep the bay as quiet and unsullied as possible, excavated only by glaciers, with fish nurseries the only multiple dwellings. Heacox recounts time spent with the many friends he has made in the area, a pleasingly witty society of odd-fellows, as well as the relationships that have gone sour due to his activism. Tender chronicle of a miracle in process, with glintsof its rarity thrown by the handful from these pages.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781592287154
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
05/01/2005
Pages:
280
Product dimensions:
6.28(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.05(d)

Meet the Author


Kim Heacox is a writer and photographer whose works have won the Benjamin
Franklin Nature Book Award and the Lowell Thomas Award. He has written nine books, some of which have been endorsed by Robert Redford, President
Jimmy Carter, and Sir Edmund Hillary. He lives in Gustavus, Alaska.

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The Only Kayak: Journeys into the Heart of Alaska 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was lent a copy of the book and I loved it so much I came on here to buy copies for my parents and friends. Heacox has a voice all his own and is incredibly gifted in describing the wilderness and the loss he feels, and the loss of the world, in it's deterioration throughout his time in Alaska. Pick it up, it is undoubtedly worth it. 
Guest More than 1 year ago
By Bill Marsano. I admit that I'm crabby and cranky and opinionated and cynical I come from another century and am set in my ways. I'm older than Calvin Coolidge put together. And sometimes I have bad days. That said, I'm always leery of titles bearing words like 'only' and 'ultimate' and 'last.' They give me the blue creevies. Still, Heacox starts off pretty nicely his tree-huggery is drowned out by his early adventure--some 25 years ago--as a sort of apprentice ranger at Glacier Bay, Alaska. He's on a kayak trip with another apprentice, one Richard, a fellow whose outlook is summed nicely in 'I may not know karate, but I know cra-a-a-azy!' He never forgets the beer and can cook, too. I'd enjoy camping with Richard but not with Heacox. His idea of pitching in seems to be picking out Beatles tunes on his guitar. (He is obsessed with the Beatles, you will learn, and if you have a soft spot for 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps,' you're going to get a bellyful.) After the early paddling, things go downhill. Heacox, it develops, loves the wilderness too much he is the worst friend a glacier ever had. He is the exemplar of those 'elitists' who want the wilderness for themselves at the expense of ordinary tax-payers. He says (repeatedly) that he wants to be 'the only kayay(er)' and he means it. Letting other people in will just wreck the place--his wilderness, which he thinks to possess by dint of devotion. As a spokesman for wilderness, Heacox leans on mantras and slogans, and in a radio debate, as president of the Friends of Glacier Bay, he is a tongue-tied failure. Later, affecting to emulate the gutsy Richard, who dared invite a ferocious anti-conservationist to lunch, he phones Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, who dreams nightly of oil-drilling in the Arctic. To the answering assistant he identifies himself as 'Jim Peacock,' a 'conversationalist' who 'work[s] on cruise ships . . .I talk to people.' We're supposed to smile at Heacox's wit here, for this is an in-joke cleverly planted earlier in the book. We're not supposed to notice that he's being a juvenile smart-aleck that he's smugly sabotaging his own efforts. He is, by the way, tongue-tied most of the rest of the time, too. Having little of his own to say he incessantly quotes his betters, who include John Muir, Daniel Boorstin, Blaise Pascal, Julian Barnes, Cezanne and three-fourths of the Beatles. And more, but soon I wearied of counting. The most important of them is Muir, who--can anyone not know it?--was founder and first president of the Sierra Club and the Father of our National Parks, beginning with Yosemite. People came from miles around to see Yosemite Muir called them 'scum.' And that's where Heacox is coming from. It is, really, all over for wilderness so far as Heacox is concerned. Situation hopeless! People keep coming! What little is left he wants to keep for his selfish only-kayak self. Indeed, married twenty years, he and his wife are childless, suggesting no faith in the future, while his 'close friends' are always DISTANT friends. Their occasional great reunions are no substitute for the demands of day-in/day-out friendship (but ever an excuse to break out his bloody guitar). Heacox has perfected an attitude of whimpering self-righteousness and is a master of the non sequitur. After not getting any landscaping advice from his friend Michio Hoshino, who is 'gone' (i.e., dead), we get 'A raven landed in a nearby snag and watched.' Heavy, huh? Or after a brief reference to Alexis de Tocqueville: 'The French don't know everything. Nobody does.' My favorite comes after he tells a story on one of his cruise-ship gigs: A woman asked me if John Muir was my hero. My hero? I suppose he is, in a way . . . Have you ever heard of Michio Hoshino? She had not. Nobody on that ship had. What was it Fitzgerald said? 'Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.' There's a certain kind of person for whom no landscape is so lov