American Wild by Michael Engelhard
Now available from Hiraeth Press: American Wild: Explorations from the Grand Canyon to the Arctic Ocean by Michael Engelhard. Torn between two “soulscapes”—the canyon country and Alaska—the author has roamed both for twenty-five years. En route he suffered snowstorms, boat-flips, heat, injury, bobcat tamales, upset raptors, charging grizzlies, the Park Service, heartbreak, hungry mosquitoes, and honeymooners from abroad. Above all, American Wild speaks of one man’s desire to see natural wealth and our stories about it preserved.
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An anthropologist by training, Michael Engelhard has worked as a potter, wrangler, army officer, ship’s cook, university teacher, outdoor instructor, and wilderness guide. Among his homes he has counted an oven-hot bunkhouse in Moab, an unheated sauna near the Arctic Circle, a houseboat parked on a ranch in British Columbia, and a blue-tarp hut shaped like a Tootsie Roll on the banks of the Rio Grande. His greatest accomplishment has been a 1,000-mile solo traverse of Alaska’s Arctic, from the Canadian border to the Bering Strait. He is the author of Redrock Almanac and Where the Rain Children Sleep and the editor of four collections of nature writing. His most recent book is Ice Bear, a cultural history of that Arctic icon. Still moving often, he lives in Fairbanks, Alaska again.
Advance Praise for American Wild
Alternately profound, funny, and enlightening, Engelhard manages something rarely even attempted in outdoor literature: stories focused not on the death-defying prowess of the adventurer, but on the wild glory of place.
—Erin McKittrick, author of Small Feet Big Land and A Long Trek Home
Michael Engelhard’s beautifully crafted book, dedicated to opposing lands of extremes, is an intricate weaving of poetic language and luscious imagery, of reverence and outrage, of intellect, humor, and wit. At times a Zen-like docent of the land, at others a curmudgeonly sage in the Abbey tradition, Engelhard doesn’t just show you around the wild places he hopelessly loves, he takes you deep into their souls, sharing the senses they evoke and the ancient stories embedded within.
—Debra McKinney, co-author of Beyond the Bear
As someone who spends her year commuting between these same two regions, I can think of no better ambassador for them than Michael Engelhard. Landscapes like these deserve such prose. Engelhard skillfully examines the threads that bind us to the land and reminds us how important it is that we protect these last wild places.
—Christa Sadler, editor of There’s This River and author of Life in Stone
Michael Engelhard migrates like the thrushes we northerners so envy in autumn. This has given him a perspective of rare insight. Here, he takes us with him and we are richer for the journey.
—Ned Rozell, author of Finding Mars and Alaska Tracks
With its exquisitely tough elegance and accordion range, Engelhard’s prose growls and sings, appropriate for a writer whose twin poles of geographic passion are the Arctic and Southwest. Read him slowly, at the speed you would appreciate any array of delights, so as not to miss one fluting wren, deftly sketched fellow traveler, or diving grebe leaving “haiku pond-ripples.” You will come away more ready to observe deeply and joyfully, more apt to draw thoughtful connections between your experiences and the natural world, and with a more nuanced insight into the dangers we pose to the places we love.
—Carol Haralson, editor of Sojourns (Peaks, Plateaus & Canyons Association)
American Wild is a treasure—both for its agile and heartfelt prose and for the wild places, adventures, and people chronicled. Engelhard channels the soul of a philosopher through the heart of an untamed beast. He is an adventurer at home in diverse environs and respectful of gifts given, whether his hands grip paddle or pen, ice axe or potsherd.
—Steve Kahn, author of The Hard Way Home
With the assurance of one who is at home in wilderness, Engelhard weaves together his inner, emotional landscape and the outer, natural world. What emerges is the portrait of a man comforted and enlivened by what some would call the most harsh and inhospitable of places.
—Laurie Hoyle, co-author of Arctic Sanctuary
The wilderness needs a voice like Michael Engelhard—one that hums with honesty, lyricism, and sheer daring. In American Wild, he takes the reader on journeys where the gritty meets the ethereal. His spiritual reverence for the natural world radiates underneath careful language, and wonder flourishes with each turn of the page. It’s a title fit for fans of nature writing that is at turns sharp, humorous, and moving.
—Seth Muller, editor of Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine