On Thin Ice
By Hugh Rowland with Michael Lent. 2010. Hyperion. 203 pages. $24.99 softcover. Available at booksellers nationwide and www.hyperionbooks.com.
Hugh Rowland — star of the History Channel’s reality television program, Ice Road Truckers — is one tough guy. In January, as temperatures dip below zero in the Northwest Territories, Rowland becomes the first driver of the season to pull his rig out onto the frozen ice roads. Just 16 inches of ice separates his truck from the frigid waters below.
In On Thin Ice, Rowland shares his story: how he got his start on ice roads, adventures and misadventures he has survived north of the Arctic Circle, and even how he relieves a full bladder at -60 F (“Shake her once instead of three times, boys and girls, and then haul ass to get back before your ‘equipment’ freezes in your hand”).
Rowland is an authoritative voice on the Arctic and its challenges and beauty. He’s survived more close calls than any other driver out there. On Thin Ice brings readers into Rowland’s cab, “the Crow’s Nest,” and along for a dangerous ride with a man who has thrived in one of the world’s most dangerous vocations.
Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs
By Heather Lende. 2010. Algonquin. 304 pages. $22.95 softcover. Available at booksellers nationwide and www.algonquin.com.
As the obituary writer for a local paper in Haines, Alaska, Heather Lende knows a thing or two about life, death and dealing with the unexpected. The author of If You Lived Here I’d Know Your Name conveys in her newest book, Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs, the importance of spirituality and community in life’s lessons.
Lende has always been in tune with the ebb and flow of death. Five years ago, she experienced it on a personal level when a truck ran over and nearly killed her. A year after that, Lende lost her mother to leukemia.
“She was on a ventilator and couldn’t speak, so she wrote ‘Take good care of the garden and the dogs,’” Lende says. “The more I thought about it, the more I realized these are words to live by.”
After physically healing from her own accident, Lende sought emotional healing too. She turned to the residents of Haines.
In her new book, Lende shares stories about a Tlingit totem pole crafted to relieve her town’s grief; a medical-relief-team worker who helped in the aftermath of the Indonesian tsunami, and a hospice patient dying of cancer who smokes anyway. By drawing on faith and the strength of those around her, Lende soon learns to forgive, grow and rejoice.
Walking Home: A Traveler in the Alaskan Wilderness, a Journey into the Human Heart
By Lynn Schooler. 2010. Bloomsbury. 260 pages. $25 hardcover. Available at booksellers nationwide and www.bloomsburyusa.com.
In the spring of 2007, hard on the heels of the worst winter in the history of Juneau, Lynn Schooler finds himself on the far side of middle age and exhausted by handcrafting a home as his marriage slips away. Fleeing the turmoil of his deteriorating relationship with his wife and the death of a close friend, Schooler shoulders a pack and sets out on a solo journey into the Alaskan wilderness. Traveling first by small boat across the formidable Gulf of Alaska, then on foot along one of the wildest coastlines in North America, he seeks to escape the pressures of life, death and love in vast solitude, only to discover new meanings in home and community.
In Walking Home: A Traveler in the Alaskan Wilderness, a Journey into the Human Heart, Schooler tells the story of his travels and his discoveries about the home he left behind. Filled with stunning observations of nature and adventures including swollen rivers and aggressive grizzly bears, Walking Home is a story about finding wholeness — and a sense of humanity — in the wild. His is a solitary journey, but Schooler is never alone; stories about people pepper the landscape: tales of trappers, explorers, marooned sailors and hermits, as well as local myths from the Tlingit Indians.
Alone in the middle of several thousand square miles of wilderness, Schooler conjures souls of past travelers to learn how life’s trials might be better borne with the help and community of others.
North of Iskut
By Tor Forsberg. 2010. Caitlin Press. 224 pages. $24.95 softcover. Available at booksellers nationwide and www.caitlin-press.com.
In 1971, Tor Forsberg was 23 and her life was at a crossroads. Having returned to Watson Lake in the Yukon after five ears in Montreal, she found her art career at a standstill and the party life of a small town much too alluring. One day, after a particularly wild night, she bumped in to Lynch Callison, the father of an old boyfriend. Lynch invited her to his lodge at the LV Ranch to “get her head straight.” The next morning she found herself bumping along Highway 37 in an old pickup, heading south to Iksut.
Tor soon fell in love with the Bush and vowed to create a life in the wilds of Northern British Columbia. She stayed in a cabin on the LV Ranch that summer, where she worked on paintings for an art show in Vancouver and practiced her wilderness skills, which she realized were limited. Determined, Tor staked some land the following year and built a log cabin, where she lived year-round with dogs, cats, packhorses and a weasel named Casper. She learned to hunt, trap, skin beaver, field dress moose, make bannock and beaver stew and scent a grizzly on the wind. She also learned to live in solitude. North of Iskut is the funny, heartwarming story of Tor’s quest to discover herself and her spirit and connection with nature.
Three Dogs, Two Mules, and a Reindeer: True Animal Adventures on the Alaska Frontier
By Marjorie Cochrane with illustrations by Jon Van Zyle. 2010. Mountain Press Publishing. 80 pages. $12 softcover. Available at booksellers nationwide and www.mountain-press.com.
Alaska history, like the state, is interesting, bold and adventurous. From the early days of exploration, brave people ventured into inaccessible parts of the region to learn more about it. They were often accompanied by four-legged companions. Now a book tells the stories of these animals that helped to shape Alaska.
Three Dogs, Two Mules, and a Reindeer: True Animal Adventures on the Alaska Frontier tells the stories of animals accompanying explorers across glaciers, tundra and icy waters, making the journeys possible. The stories, all true, take place in different parts of Alaska. Readers can venture with Stikeen, a little dog that accompanied John Muir in Southeaster Alaska, and Bones, the sled dog on an expedition to the far north.
Award-winning children’s book artist Jon Van Zyle illustrates historical images, making the book accessible to readers of all ages. Van Zyle is the official artist of the Iditarod dog-sled race.
Marjorie Cochrane, a freelancer, formerly wrote on staff for newspapers in Alaska and Idaho before retiring.
North by Northwestern: A Sea-Faring Family in Deadly Alaskan Waters
By Sig Hansen and Mark Sundeen. 2010. Thomas Dunne books. 336 pages. $25.99 hardcover. Available at booksellers nationwide and www.stmartins.com.
Built around a gripping tale of a deadly shipwreck, Sig Hansen and Mark Sundeen’s North by Northwestern is a multi-generational tale of the Hansen family, a tough clan of Norwegian-American fishermen who spent their lives on the open seas hauling King Crab.
Sig never expected to get famous by fishing. Growing up in Seattle, he started as a deckhand on his father’s boat, the Northwestern. He worked his way up the ranks. By his mid-20s, he was completely in charge. The Northwestern is one of the most successful crabbing boats at sea, never having fatalities under Hansen’s stewardship and maintaining an injury rate lower than all the other boats in the area.
In North by Northwestern, Hansen vividly describes the strength and courage he and his crew, including brothers Edgar and Norman, show in order to haul in stuffed seven-foot crab pots amid near-hurricane force winds. Hansen follows a fierce work ethic: bring in the catch, stay alive, and keep the ship going.
Sig Hansen has been featured throughout the first five seasons of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch. Mark Sundeen is an adventure writer and frequent contributor to numerous national magazines. He is the author of The Making of Toro and Car Camping.
By H.R. Shrack. 2009. Outskirts Press. 424 pages. $25.95 softcover. Available at booksellers nationwide.
Ghost Stalker is a story based on a man who might have lived if Jeremiah Johnson (a.k.a. John Johnston) had produced a child with a Pikuni Blackfoot expatriate who claimed to have been his woman. Adventures that occur throughout the book could easily have happened to anyone raised on a reservation, weaned on the Vietnam Conflict and rejected by his own country, culture and personal relationships. He is a man who cannot seem to find a home in a land that he should be able to call “home.” Jeremiah “Jerry” Johnson-Eagle, a half-breed, runs from the law and his past, and then falls in love against the backdrop of the High Uintah Mountains. Hand-to-hand combat, a manhunt pitting one man’s strengths against another’s past, and the action and strategy involved in staying alive through it all permeate this story.