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Homelands Kayaking The Inside Passage [Paperback]

Byron Ricks
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 1 2019

"For five months in the spring and summer of 1996, Maren and I traveled the Inside Passage...It was a long and beautiful journey, a season of bright sun and dark cloud, above-average rainfall, and broad shoulders...It was a time before home ownership, before children, an open window and all we had to do was leap through. And we did...The very name, Inside Passage, seemed to carry an intimacy, a knowing. It would be a personal voyage. As much as anything, it would be a journey home."

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Description

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In an era of testosterone-charged adventure tales, Byron Ricks's Homelands: Kayaking the Inside Passage is a wonderfully introspective adventure-travel memoir. In 1996 Ricks and his wife, Maren van Nostrand, came close to making an offer on their first house, but instead decided to undertake an adventure of a different kind together--kayaking from Alaska's Glacier Bay down the coast of Western Canada to southern Puget Sound, near their Seattle home. They had no set schedule to keep and for five months lived by nautical charts and the rhythms of the tides, wind, and weather. Their plan was to paddle from the glaciers to the city, exploring a coast in flux and the ways of native peoples such as the Tlinglit, Tsimshian, and Haida--whose ancestors paddled the passage for centuries. The driving question of Homelands is this: how does the act of making a very long journey home, in this case by paddle--at an average velocity of a mere three knots--affect one's concept of home? This ocean-size question is fed by smaller tributaries: Do overcoming peril and danger make the rewards of coming home greater? How do native inhabitants encountered along the way relate to their homeland? What do you do when you're camped in a bear's back yard? And what are the issues facing a husband and wife setting out across vast expanses of open water to confront--in the most literal sense--what lies beyond?

A journalist with a background in history and anthropology, Ricks is gifted with both a keen eye and a poetic ear. The tale is written in diary form, and its voice originates in the pace of the kayak: tranquil, steady, respectful. An easygoing and astute companion, Ricks is clearly an old soul--with questions well worth asking and some lovely observations to share. --Kimberly Brown --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

In a book that is sometimes invigorating and sometimes maddeningly attenuated, Ricks recounts the five-month journey from Alaska's Glacier Bay to Washington's Puget Sound that he and his wife made by sea kayak. Ricks is obviously as well studied in the geology and the ecology of the terrain as he is blithely realistic about his ability to impose his plans upon it, bandying terms like "bathymetry" and "isostatic rebound" as freely as "ibuprofen." But while Ricks, an outdoors writer who lives in the Northwest, occasionally shows descriptive power worthy of John McPhee, the book's diary-entry structure limits his creativity, prevents inventive shifts in scene and leaves the narrative leaden in spots. Through his talks with people along the route, Ricks comes to an understanding of the term "homeland" not as something static but as a word that "speaks to the kind of relationship a people have with their place." With this interpretation, Ricks tries to find a connection to his own country even as he spends his voyage's last day paddling through a scum of oily water and past an island prison with high walls and razor wire. The book truly conveys the experiences of a long journey through remarkable terrain. Readers will share some of Ricks's elation over natural beauty and hard-won insight. But they will also be frustrated by a narrative that is as unnecessarily arduous as the journey it recounts was inevitably so. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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At 7 A.M. Maren and I join Peter, our skipper, and David, a photographer and avid paddler. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
I have sailed and paddled the Inside Passage from time to time over the last 24 years. I am an avid reader of true outdoor adventures. I usually judge a book by its ability to hold my interest and ultimately to motivate me to leave the comforts of home and to take a stoll down "the road less traveled." I have been eyeing my kayak and checking my gear since finishing Homelands. When the ski season is over, I'm packing my kayak and heading north. My only regret is that I do not have the luxury of duplicating the entire trip.
The author provides an engaging and captivating description of this courageous undertaking in a journal format. This format serves the book and pace of the adventure well. The poetic language used to describe characters, places and events is excellent and conjures memories that parallel my own experiences along the British Columbia coast. The author has done an excellent job of capturing the flow, feeling and character of this region. This is not a Fodor's on kayaking the Inside Passage but rather an adventure of the soul and mind, at water level, along one of the most rustic, beautiful and inhospitable coastlines in America.
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This book is well written and interesting to read, but for a book claiming to be about "Kayaking the Inside Passage" there is remarkably little content on kayaking, camping and equipment (a complaint of other reviewers as well). The book instead emphasizes people, places and cultures, with plenty of politically-correct, ecologically-aware discourse on resource exploitation, which will no doubt resonate with the masses, but I found to be shallow and tiresome. The author appears to divide the frontier culture that he encounters into two camps. The bad guys are the resource exploiters (timber, mining, fishing), rich people in waterfront homes and the cruise ships. The good guys are Indians, biologists, whale researchers, people in non-motorized boats (kayaks are OK as long as they're not newbees) and homesteaders. Byron and Maren only seem to meet and associate with the "good guys" on their trip. No attempt appears to have been made to get to know and understand the "bad guys". I expected a great deal more sophistication in his discussions of development issues. I certainly share many of the authors concerns about loss of wilderness along the inside passage, and have been appalled by clear cutting and other threats to my wilderness playground, but such selfish notions must be balanced against the survival and welfare of people in rural communities.
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By A Customer
Ricks is a fine writer. The journey unfolds a day at a time, and for reasons which become obvious, he does not provide a lot of technical paddling instruction, maps, or 'broken stove" anecdotes. Homelands is an 'inside passage,' a journey of the mind through a landscape with a profound spiritual history. The relics and totems of European and American explorers and enterpreneurs are just as present as those of the First Nations peoples; Ricks sees the trees, the forest, the clear cuts, the log rafts, and the tides and currents as part of a personal and historical journey. It's a literate book and can be enjoyed by those who do not paddle. Readers are invited to go with the flow of the book, its weather days and paddling days, and to reflect on their own purposes in being outdoors, or on personal journeys. It is written with an authentic modesty about the considerable accomplishment of the journey, and has a moving ending, much more about the relationships one makes in one's life than about 'getting somewhere.'
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By A Customer
Homelands is first rate because it made me a mental companion to the physical challenges of the trip and and inner feelings of the adventurers mastering these challenges. Homelands is sensitive to the environment of this coast and its interrelationship to the people, cultures and issues that exist because of it.
Through the eyes of Homelands I see fragile beauty, diversity and the complex interrelationships of this environment; thus enabling me to raise questions about the environments of my live and the cultures around me. The author raises the question as to whether the wilderness is something to just be exploited or a basic necessity for maintaining balance and perspective in the journey of living? The author got me thinking about how you create a harmonious balance between use and preservation of natural resources.
I met a variety of persons and overheard their conversations with the author. I feel as if I have vicariously made the journey with them and am compelled to review my lifestyle and relationships in light of the experience.
Homelands is written in short sections, but each section gives you something to think about or visualize. Good when you only have a few minutes to read.
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1.0 out of 5 stars A book that could have been great. Aug. 24 1999
By kerry
I enjoy a "journey book" and read a lot of them. I have kayaked in the area covered by the book by myself for weeks. The book chronicles the couple's kayak trip from Glacier Bay AK to Seattle, WA. I expected a journey book the to weave 3 items between it's covers. A good story. A written picture of the things (people, geography, and experiences) they met and saw along the way. I got an OK written picture. A discussion of how their equipment planning and use worked. At a campground on the northern eastern tip of Vancouver, they gave Maren's sister hedge shears that they hinted that they had used to cut the thick coastal Salal for camp spots. That would have been an interesting discussion on how they did or didn't use the shears. He spent a lot of time talking about clear cutting. I know this is a problem in the area and I know it is very ugly but no soap boxing for pages. I really want to hear about their every day routine. His metaphors and descriptions used big words that are difficult at 10:30pm when I like to read and have dreams of a journey. His best description was of their Prince Rupert supply stop. We never learned what they needed and what they had too much of. What they craved during the trip. During one foggy crossing, they were very concerned about being run over by a cruise ship in the channel. They didn't use their Marine Radio for a general call to "ALL ship in the area of ... " to inform themselves of the location of the ships. They received offers of global positioning satellite information with disdain from kayakers he met along the way. The book lacked maps with enough scale to follow their trip. If you were not familiar with the area you would be lost. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Thanks for sharing the journey - Great book.
I've read many journey tales over the years, perhaps spurred on by my reading Marco Polo and trips to Venice and across Turkey while in the Army. Read more
Published on Nov. 3 2000 by Marc Wallace
4.0 out of 5 stars Like a Very Well-written Diary
Daily accounts of experiences while kayaking the inside passage. I found the entire book engaging and interesting. Read more
Published on July 5 2000 by pullrich
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful trip through the inside passage...
I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy not only an exciting kayaking trip down the inside passage from Alaska to Washington, but also a fine piece of writing that was colorful and... Read more
Published on June 6 2000 by Pete
5.0 out of 5 stars Spritual and thought provoking
Byron did an excellent job of taking the reader along on his paddle....spiritually, mentally, and physically. Read more
Published on April 3 2000 by R. White
3.0 out of 5 stars It wasn't what I expected
Byron and Maren sound like wonderful people, and I admire thier spirit of adventure and commitment and respect of the land. I think I expected a lot more action in the story. Read more
Published on March 11 2000
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not consuming
An interesting book, but I wanted more detail about the writer's daily life while on the sea. I found it frustrating to be brought to the edge of what appeared to be an exciting... Read more
Published on Jan. 26 2000 by christine scott
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightfully written piece about a beautiful region
Having sailed the Inside Passage a number of times, including the summer of 1996 when I encountered Byron and Maren while aboard "Cecilie" and then reading... Read more
Published on Oct. 6 1999 by James B. Quarles
5.0 out of 5 stars The essence of sea kayaking.
There are many "how to books" on all aspects of sea kayaking. Byron's book captures the why of this mode of travel. Read more
Published on Oct. 5 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars great narrative of a landscape disappearing
I enjoyed this journey both as an excape from work and an reminder that you take take the wild landscape for granted. Read more
Published on Oct. 4 1999 by M. Childs
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a how-to book, rather a story of the heart and spirit.
I found Byron Ricks book to be a captivating tale of kayak travel through the Inside Passage. No, it doesn't tell us exactly how they did things or where they went but that was... Read more
Published on Sept. 6 1999 by Mark Whitesell
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