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Book Cover for: What the River Knows: Essays from the Heart of Alaska, Michael Engelhard

What the River Knows: Essays from the Heart of Alaska

Michael Engelhard

"Full of humor and humility about the human condition. This is Alaska as only someone who knows it deeply can give us-a deliciously readable encounter with the place beyond the myths." - BATHSHEBA DEMUTH, author of The Floating Coast

Edward Abbey, who never much liked Alaska, called it "our biggest, buggiest, boggiest state." To others, it has been a cure for despair. When the author moved to Fairbanks more than three decades ago, he was a cheechako, a subarctic tenderfoot. Gathering skills and experiences the hard way, he attained "Sourdough" status while realizing there would always be more to learn, see, and do in the land of midnight sun and auroras.


En route, Michael Engelhard suffered frostbite, stubborn yaks, grizzly charges, trophy hunters, cold-water immersion, heartbreak, incontinent raptors, one pesky squirrel, and honeymooners from abroad. He tried to rescue a raven and explored Arctic dunes and a glacier's blue heart, and his own, as he mingled with caribou on their epic journeys.


This collection opens with an essay about the highest point in the state and finishes with one about one of its lowest, at the continent's northern edge. The writings in between span thirty-three years, the most formative decades of this author's life. Rivers have been a constant in them, the sinews connecting highpoints and low points, outlier and main events, as they do Alaska's elevation extremes. Engelhard is no slouch either when it comes to walking. Backpacking was his first love, for the sense of self-sufficiency and independence it provides.


Book Details

  • Publisher: Hancock House Publishers
  • Publish Date: Jun 1st, 2024
  • Pages: 320
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 9.00in - 6.00in - 0.67in - 0.95lb
  • EAN: 9780888397782
  • Categories: MemoirsEcologyEssays

About the Author

Engelhard, Michael: - Michael Engelhard worked for 25 years as an outdoor instructor and wilderness guide in Alaska and the Canyon Country. He received a Master's degree in cultural anthropology from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, where he also taught very briefly-indoor classrooms just weren't his thing.He is the recipient of a Rasmuson Individual Artist Award, a Foreword INDIES and Independent Publisher Book Award, and three Alaska Press Club Awards. His books include Ice Bear: The Cultural History of an Arctic Icon; his account of a solo trip from the Canada border to the Bering Sea, Arctic Traverse: A Thousand-Mile Summer of Trekking the Brooks Range; and No Walk in the Park: Maunderings and Meanderings of a Canyon Guide.A Luddite fence sitter and migrant by training and inclination, he moves wherever his needs are met best, just like the people and critters he so admires.

Reading Lists – Biographies & Memoirs