In this journal of a back-country winter, Bass is working in the tradition of Walden. Wishing to confront the essentials of nature and self, he heads for the most remote place he can find--the Yaak valley of Montana, with its 30 inhabitants and lack of electricity. The journal focuses on his adaptation to the harsh climate, stressing his growing knowledge of backwoods skills and lore. Unfortunately, Bass rarely goes beyond recording daily tasks and encounters. He conveys little insight into the spiritual changes he is undergoing and has surprisingly little to say about the relation of man and nature. His writing has been compared to that of Annie Dillard and Peter Matthiessen, but these flat, sketchy accounts belie such comparisons. In the end, ``notes'' is an all-too-appropriate subtitle for this disappointing volume, which often seems like the skeleton of a more substantial work.--Lawrence Rungren, Bedford Free P.L., Mass.