Book Review: The Only Kayak

Recently I read the book The Only Kayak, by Kim Heacox, a long time resident of Gustavus, Alaska and a one-time ranger in Glacier Bay National Park.

I recommend this book with reservations. On the positive side, Me Heacox does an excellent job of evoking the imagery of Alaska in general and of Glacier Bay in particular. His descriptions of scenery, wildlife, and the sheer joy of individual exploration are breathtaking. The friends that he writes about come alive and make you regret they’re not your friends. He also does an excellent job of documenting the history of park management in Alaska.

On the other hand, Mr. Heacox can be extremely preachy and in many places makes it clear he believes that Alaska would be much better off if all the people simply packed up and moved away, taking their buildings and clutter with them. Given this attitude, I’m not sure how he justifies living in Gustavus. Admittedly, Heacox himself sees this as a paradox and appears to struggle with that on a daily basis.

Although most of the anti-industry talk riled me by its intensity, I and I suspect half my fellow residents are charmed by these two descriptions of the final evolution in cruise ships:

“Someday they’ll make the Sphere Princess,” Richard predicted. “It’ll be a mile across and a mile high, the largest man-made thing on Earth. It’ll hold a million passengers and roll through the sea like a giant ball, with the inner decks on gimbals so there’ll be no motion from the waves.” – p. 56

One day the Sphere Princess will arrive, so large it will block the sun. Every human being inside will be insulated from all that he or she dislikes, satisfaction guaranteed. Bird songs will be piped into staterooms with volumes adjusted for perfect pleasure….Those humans outside will be rolled over and crushed.

Not that I don’t want Walt to cruise the inside passage. But it might be nice to have 600,000 passengers a year instead of a million or more.

Overall, I think the story of Alaska overrides the author’s discomfort of industry. If you want to understand what keeps many of us here, this book is a nice start.

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One Response to Book Review: The Only Kayak

  1. Anonymous says:

    Daniel-I’d love to post your review of the Only Kayak on the Juneau Book Blog…can we use it? See contact link on Juneau Book Blog Page hiding under Submit a Review…

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