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 glints of its rarity thrown by the handful from these pages.