The Only Kayak

The Only Kayak

A Journey Into the Heart of Alaska

Book - 2005
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Globe Fearon Co
Finalist for the 2006 Pen Center USA Western award in creative nonfiction.

"I live in the sunshine of friends and the shadows of glaciers. I suppose I will die there too, if all goes well. No hurry though. The hardness of water, the ebb and flow of ice, the once and future glaciers of America, they created my home and they will destroy it. My winter is only a heartbeat to them. Don't get me wrong. I wasn't born in a cave or raised by wolves. I grew up on pavement and the soft seat of a Schwinn Red Racer, gripping the handlebars with everything I had. Then I let go. Somewhere along the way I let go and found something new, but also something ancient. I moved to Glacier Bay, Alaska, the last wild shore, nine hundred miles north of Seattle and nine hundred years in the past, and I never came back." --from The Only Kayak

So begins a coming-of-middle-age memoir by Kim Heacox who writes in the tradition of Edward Abbey, John McPhee and Henry David Thoreau, his voice at times tender, irate, funny,and deeply humane. What he finds in Alaska is a land reborn from beneath a massive glacier (one hundred miles long, five thousand feet thick), where flowers emerge from boulders, moose swim fjords, and bears cross crevasses with Homeric resolve. In such a place Heacox finds that people are reborn too. Friends become family in a land of risk and hope. Lives begin anew with incredible journeys, epiphanies, and successes. All in an America free of crass commercialism and over-development.

Braided through the larger story are tales of gold prospectors and the cabin they built sixty years ago, a cabin that refuses to fall down; plus tales of John Muir and his intrepid terrier, Stickeen; and a dynamic geology professor who teaches earth science "as if every day were a geological epoch."

Nearly two million people come to Alaska every summer, some on large cruise ships, some in two-seater planes, some in single kayaks--all in search of the last great wilderness, the Africa of America. It is exactly the America Heacox finds in this story of paradox, love and loss, the conflict between idealism and learning to accept that some things can never quite stay the same.

Book News
Heacox's book is both a coming-of-(middle)age memoir and a love story, with Alaska serving as both the journey's end and the beloved. While Heacox writes passionately about his home in Glacier Bay, he also acknowledges the inevitability of change there. In prose that is both lyrical and powerful, he gives the reader a complete picture of the beauty of that wilderness and what will be lost in its deterioration. Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Publisher: Guilford, Conn. : Lyons Press, c2005
ISBN: 9781592287154
Branch Call Number: F912.G5 H43 2005
Characteristics: xiv, 249 p. : ill. (chiefly col.), maps ; 24 cm


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