RIDGE WRITERS ON BOOKS: ’Arctic Daughter: a Wilderness Journey’
By Maryann Butterfield
“Arctic Daughter” by Jean Aspen is a fascinating true account of a year in the life of the author and her companion, Phil. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys books on exploration.
The author was born in Alaska and spent her first three years there, falling in love with the land and the snow. Her family moved to Arizona but she never lost her love for Alaska’s forests and climate.
Aspen decided to spend a year deep in the wilderness with her companion Phil. They thoroughly studied what they would need to take and calculated the weight of supplies.
They also studied carefully what they would need to know: among other things, how to build a cabin, dress-out game and deal with temperatures well below zero.
They paddled a large overloaded canoe along the Yukon River. Then they turned north on the Chandalar River in the northern interior of Alaska, pulling the canoe in shallow water.
They stopped at native villages where they were welcomed and always invited to dinner. They always ate what the natives ate. For example, when they shared a meal at one village, the dinner was moose-gut stew; the guts hadn’t been emptied of their contents before going into the stewpot.
They finally found a place to settle in. The temperatures had already fallen to well below zero. They were short of meat and animal fat, essential for survival in the intense cold.
Their feet, faces and hands were showing signs of frostbite. They hadn’t been able to unload the canoe as they traveled, so they hadn’t yet changed from their one set of light clothing to their single set of winter clothes.
Theirs was a dangerous expedition and many things could go wrong. Would they kill enough game to last the winter? Did they pack all the other food, tools and other items they would need? How many fingers or toes would they lose to the subzero temperatures? Could they finish a cabin so they could survive the winter? Would they have to give up and retreat to civilization?
The final question is would you go through all the hardships and dangers this pair did, or would you have turned around at the first sign of danger?
Aspen’s book, “Arctic Daughter,” is a great read. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about survival in the face of adversity.
This weekly column is written by members of the Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club. Meetings are held the first Wednesday evening of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church and free programs are offered throughout the year. Ridge Writers’ book “Planet Mojave: Visions From a World Apart” is available at Carriage Inn, Jawbone Station, the Historic USO Building, Matu-rango Museum, Red Rock Books and www.planetmojave.com.Story First Published: 2013-03-13