Friday, August 26, 2011

Walking Home - a Book Review

Walking Home: A Traveler in the Alaskan Wilderness, a Journey into the Human Heart by Lynn Schooler.
I am reviewing this book I just finished with its many insights into the natural world as I feel Virginia Master Naturalists and those interested in the great outdoors would enjoy this book! 

Publisher's description:
In the spring of 2007, hard on the heels of the worst winter in the history of Juneau, Alaska, Lynn Schooler finds himself facing the far side of middle age and exhausted by laboring to handcraft a home as his marriage slips away. Seeking solace and escape in nature, he 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. 

Walking Home is filled with stunning observations of the natural world, and rife with nail-biting adventure as Schooler fords swollen rivers and eludes aggressive grizzlies. But more important, it is a story about finding wholeness--and a sense of humanity--in the wild. His is a solitary journey, but Schooler is never alone; human stories people the landscape--tales of trappers, explorers, marooned sailors, and hermits, as well as the mythology of the region's Tlingit Indians. Alone in the middle of several thousand square miles of wilderness, Schooler conjures the souls of travelers past to learn how the trials of life may be better borne with the help and community of others.

Walking Home recalls Jonathan Raban's Passage to Juneau or Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, but with a more successful outcome. With elegance and soul, Schooler creates a conversation between the human and the natural, the past and present, to investigate what it means to be a part of the flow of human history.

Some of the incredible insights I found in this one man's journey into the Alaskan Wilderness (of which he is so familiar) are the sharing of stories about the shoreline cottonwood trees in Lituya Bay and the balm of Gilead (which is the healing salve and scent the buds emit before opening), the Plover Birds with their amazing oceanic journey from Hawaii to Alaska, the Brown Bears and how they will only walk along the path of another Brown Bear (unlike any other creature in the wild), how birds have an extrasensory or enhanced sense that allows them to view infrared and migrate and how certain birds can fly over the Rockies and hear the Pacific and the Atlantic, and more.  

We learn of his personal struggles, his thoughts and worries in a sort of mid-life crisis as he tells it.  We learn of his fears of being alone, and after being stalked by a hungry Grizzly he realizes he is there to survive as all animals in the food chain survive, how your parents and your grandparents were strong as babies and survived and the unlikelihood of you being where you are today, reading this!

I recommend this book, it is more than a backpackers tale or diary, it is about natural history and culture of the great wilderness of Alaska. You will be intrigued by this one man's adventure as he shares stories of massive earthquakes, devastating tsunamis, wilderness hermits with hearts of gold, local Indians and customs, grand explorers, and shipwrecks.  

You can get this book on here

BRFAL Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalist wants you to get outside, explore and learn something new today. Get involved in something cool, learn more about the Virginia Master Naturalist program here! 

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