Reviews

Book Review: Kantishna: Mushers, Miners, Mountaineers – The Pioneer Story Behind Mount McKinley National Park

by Tom Walker | June 1, 2006

KantishnaSometimes nature photographers like to strike out on their own with few clues about the land, people and animals where they hope to find adventure and subjects. But for those interested in intriguing history and a trim pack of facts that can be provided by a well-written book about a mythical land, Alaskan Tom Walker has what you need in Kantishna: Mushers, Miners, Mountaineers – The Pioneer Story Behind Mount McKinley National Park.

Hot off the press but years in the making, “Kantishna” is the first of two planned volumes relating the struggles leading up to the establishment of Alaska’s great Mt. McKinley National Park, also known as “Denali.” Denali is Athabascan for “the tall one” – certainly fitting, for at 20,320′ Mt. McKinley is the tallest peak in North America.

From the rush to riches that brought in tens of thousands of Outsiders around the turn of the century to the reality of unfathomable hardships of temperature and terrain, we follow the events through key characters. Some of these pioneers were wealthy, connected and political. Most were the exact opposite, painfully poor and without too much power. All were in search of adventure, riches and a different life. All their stories led in part to the mapping of the park. Thousands explored, staked claims, mined, hunted, trapped, guided, traded, ran businesses, transported and lived off the land. To supply meat for the hungry hordes, some hunted for the market, profiting from the slaughter of thousands of Dall sheep, caribou, moose, mountain goats and most anything with fur, fins or feathers that could be eaten. This alone was one of the key factors that led to eventual regulation and conservation, actions with limited appeal to many Alaskans then and now.

Using a variety of diaries and historical documents for reference, the author allows us insight into these extraordinary people, both Native and Outsiders, and their will to survive with only the help of the elements, their dogs, their grit, and sometimes, colleagues, a spouse or a few good friends.

Telling their true stories, author Walker skillfully lays out the ropes that lead us gruelingly to the top of Mt. McKinley. Before it’s all over we know who said they went but didn’t, those who made it to the top and lived to tell about it and those who lied through their teeth.

It’s a neat historical piece for those who have visited or plan to visit Denali. I highly recommend it.

Kantishna: Mushers, Miners, Mountaineers may be purchased via Amazon.com. For a signed copy, please visit the author’s website: www.tomwalkerphotography.com.

Kantishna - Mushers, Miners, Mountaineers - The Pioneer Story Behind Mount McKinley National Park by Tom Walker

About the Author

Alaskan nature photographer-writer Tom Walker is a 40-year resident of Alaska who enjoys traveling the state. He has authored numerous books. For more information, please visit his website, www.tomwalkerphotography.com.

Post a Comment

Logged in as Anonymous