Monday, March 26, 2012

Passage to Alaska

The Pacific North West is a justifiably popular sea kayaking destination, with numerous paddlers from all over the world heading to this region each year.  Most are just able to scratch the surface of what this vast region has to offer.  Each year some kayakers are fortunate enough to be able to undertake a much longer journey and thereby gain a greater insight into the history, culture and environmental considerations of the area.
Tim Lydon is one such paddler and his 1996 journey with Bill Bastian is the subject of this entertaining book.  They left from Port Hardy at the northern end of Vancouver Island and finished in Juneau after paddling nearly 1,000 miles in approximately two months.   This is more than a mere paddling book it is also a description of an evolving landscape, as glaciers retreat, set against a historical background of exploration by such influential men as George Vancouver and John Muir.
One unusual aspect of the book are the narrow panels of information, which are to be found on some of the pages.  They cover such topics as “Low Impact Camping”, “Whitewater in a Sea Kayak”, “Protecting Bears from our Food” etc.  The panels cover in much greater detail a range of subjects, which would be normally dismissed in the course of a sentence.
The Inside Passage provides a relatively sheltered route along the coast of the Pacific Northwest but their journey reached a crisis within the first 24 hours, although they were fortunate to receive shelter at Pine Island lighthouse.  The weather clearly impacted on their paddle, day after day of torrential rain and a low cloud base dominating their voyage.  Clearly any paddlers venturing into this region has to be prepared for a somewhat damp climate!
Although this a sea kayaking book, the most interesting parts for me were the environmental and historical sections.  Tim Lydon clearly has an understanding of and empathy for the region.  Starting with the early explorations of Vancouver it leads to the 19th century gold rushes and the 20th century logging operations  this is a book, which will not only appeal to the sea kayakers amongst us but also the historians.

So whether you are planning to return to the area, visit for the first time or are an armchair explorer this is a volume, which will appeal to you.

By Tim Lydon
Published 2003 by Hancock House
Paperback 336 pages
ISBN 0-88839-523-X
Price £12.50 although there are a number of second hand copies around

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