Top critical review
Pretty good but too many overly detailed descriptions of glaciers & untruths? about Natives
Reviewed in the United States on May 30, 2020
Divided into parts or chapters about a few trips to Alaska. Mostly he was learning about glaciers, but also recorded descriptions of the country, interactions with Native Alaskans and other indigenous people (Canadian).
He is a nature lover, of course, and that comes through in his descriptions. To some degree it's a travelogue, which makes it a bit more interesting. At times I was wondering why his trips were set up: who paid for them or sponsored chartering the vessel? Was there an organization behind him or was he financing the whole trip? Did he published his scientific findings? What was the purposes of the trips? Enjoyment only, amateur study, etc? These are questions never really addressed in the book, which would have lent more understanding to his several voyages and made the book richer.
I found one thing to be very odd . He was often traveling with a missionary and this man tried to convert Natives to Christianity, as such religious people are wont to do. Strangely, though, every tribal chieftain was THRILLED to accept Christ; the Native people were just waiting for just such a prophet as the missionary so they could immediately embrace Christianity.
So, as recorded at least 3 times the missionary visits a new tribe. He meets with chieftain. He briefly informs tribal leader about Christ. Tribal leader is super excited and says that their lives have been empty but now they are full. From then on the tribe, leader and shaman are all converts and enjoy services. I simply don't believe this and wonder if it might have been a forced invention by Muir, as per the times he lived in? Can't believe that the warlike Tlingit and other aggressive tribes of coastal Alaska would toss away generations of culture and their own beliefs and simply become Christians in literally 5 minutes.
A couple of his "day hikes" up mountains I thought to be questionable. Muir blithely climbs "14 to 16 miles" and 7,000 feet (to an 8,000 ft. peak) while dragging along Mr. Young. Muir reaches the summit late in the day. Note that there's no mention of snow, ropes or ice axes given that 7,000 feet elevation in that part of Alaska or Canada would likely be very snowy in springtime and could also involve technical mountaineering equipment. Oh, and this is just a "day hike": 14-16 miles without a trail through dense brush, in deep snow and around rock pinnacles at 8,000 ft. with no mountaineering gear, dragging along a less experienced person, yea sure.
There are other untruths that have to do with natural history. For example, on pg. 31 he's "refreshing himself" with huckleberries. The problem is, it's spring and 3 solid months (or more) until there are any huckleberries. This is merely an example of the exaggerations or lack of veracity noted in several places in the book. If the reader can't trust events such as this it throws the whole book into the light of fiction, whereas the book is written as non-fiction.
Finally, Muir leaves out entire components that would have made the "travelogue", if that's what it's meant to be, more fuller and richer. For example, what did they eat, what was the tent/housing like, how did they live on these trips? Were there hardships: bugs, sun, bears? These topics are given only passing or no mention.
Oh, and the glacier and geology desciptions...long and boring.
Find another book, perhaps one of Muir's Sierra books are more truthful and interesting?