John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire: How a Visionary and the Glaciers of Alaska Changed America

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Lyons Press
Publish Date
6.1 X 0.9 X 9.1 inches | 1.05 pounds
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About the Author

Kim Heacox has written eight books, four for National Geographic, five on biography and conservation. Heacox's latest book, The Only Kayak (Lyons, 2005), was a PEN USA Literary Award finalist in creative non-fiction and is now in its sixth printing. He has twice won the Lowell Thomas Award for excellence in travel writing. A former ranger with the U.S. National Park Service, Kim lives in the little town of Gustavus (pop. 400, reachable only by boat or plane), next to Glacier Bay, where he and his wife, Melanie, are building the Glacier Bay Institute. In 1998, Kim was a writer-in-residence at the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University, (where he wrote a book on the Antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton); in 2012 he was a writer-in-residence at Denali National Park, in Interior Alaska.His writing credits include Orion, Audubon, Wilderness, Sierra, National Geographic, GEO and other magazines, plus the literary journals Connotations, Tidal Echoes, and Camas, and op-eds in The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Seattle Times, and The Anchorage Daily News. Heacox also works as an inspirational speaker and has spoken to tens of thousands of people (over the past 20 years) for National Geographic, Smithsonian, the National Outdoor Leadership School, U.S. National Park Service, Alaska Conservation Foundation, Lindblad Expeditions, The Nature Conservancy, The Wilderness Society, and many schools and universities.


This is a fascinating biography of John Muir, the 'father of America's environmental movement.' The author uses Muir's many trips to Alaska, exploring and studying the glaciers, to form the framework for his life story. Muir was already enchanted with nature, but glaciers ignited his passion. Glacier Bay was a focus of his early efforts to save nature from exploitation. Readers get to meet the man with all his enthusiasms and foibles, a man who needed wild untrammeled nature as much as he needed air. This biography feels more personal than Donald Worster's A Passion for Nature and other biographies. It captures the romance and passion of Muir's life. The author's writing style is poetic, making the book a joy to read. . . .This excellent biography can stand alone or serve as a companion to Muir's Travels in Alaska (1915). The extensive bibliography and 16 pages of endnotes enhance its usefulness for students. Valuable for both pleasure reading and research. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic and general environmental studies collections.--CHOICE
"Fascinating...A wonderfully personal biography of Muir......The book is an engaging and informative look at Muir and his life's work, as well as a timely call to action that poses difficult questions to the reader and the philosophies that underpin modern life." --Publishers Weekly [Starred Review] "A gripping biography of "a gentle rebel, a talkative hermit, an enthusiastic wanderer, a distant son of the Scottish Enlightenment, inspired by ice.'" --Kirkus Reviews [Starred Review] "Long a highly regarded member of Alaska's literary establishment, Heacox is at the top of his game here. The science is fascinating, the prose is poetic, and the story weaves a long-lasting geographic spell." --Booklist [Starred Review] "In a graceful coda noting the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act and other conservationist legislation, Heacox transfers Muir's mind-set into the present day."- The Boston Globe "Stunning...Heacox is a literary companion Muir would certainly endorse." --Alaska Dispatch "In this compelling narrative, Kim Heacox brings us the man the Tlingits called the "great ice chief" and shows that Alaska was an equally powerful force in shaping Muir's views and igniting the passion - part religion, part science - that burned so brightly in his soul. It's a welcome corrective. As Muir himself said, 'A man who neither believes in God nor glaciers must be... the worst kind of unbeliever.'" - Dayton Duncan, author of The National Parks: America's Best Idea "There couldn't be a more gifted or qualified writer than Kim Heacox to tell the story of John Muir's travels to Alaska and his passion for glaciers. This beautifully crafted and meticulously researched book chronicles Muir's journeys with the kind of detail that puts readers beside him in a rain-drenched canoe, paddling into an ice-cold, unknown land where glaciers are sages, 300-foot-tall ancients telling the story of where we've been and where we're headed. Muir realized more than one hundred years ago that the planet was warming. Ice never lies, Heacox shows us. If only we would listen" - Debra McKinney, coauthor of Beyond the Bear "Kim Heacox has sculpted for us the pure John Muir, the passionate high priest of Nature, out scaling his beloved glaciers, far from the spiritual contaminations of the madding modern world. Heacox's storytelling is a delight. His portrait of Muir is indelible. For lovers of the outdoors, his new book is a rare treasure, limned in prose vivid enough to chew and to paint with." - Hedrick Smith, author of Who Stole the American Dream? "Kim Heacox - one of America's finest outdoor writers - has brought the majestic beauty of Alaska alive in John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire. It's elegantly written, brilliantly researched, and illuminating in fifty different ways. Highly recommended." Douglas Brinkley, historian and author of The Wilderness Warrior and The Quiet World Praise for The Only Kayak "A tender chronicle of a miracle in process." Kirkus Reviews "Kim Heacox has outdone himself. This book is funny, sad, erudite, and beautifully written, and an important contribution to Alaska literature. It's a rarity - a book that manages to convey an important environmental message without sliding into self-absorbed intellectualism... As a student of Alaska literature and a professional writer, I'm grateful for this book. " - Nick Jans, author of A Wolf Called Romeo
[This] subject certainly found its match in Kim Heacox of Gustavus. There's no writer living today better suited to telling the story of -- as the book's subtitle promises -- "how a visionary and the glaciers of Alaska changed America.". . . .He brings to life in this well-crafted narrative a complex and compelling character in the context of his times -- and now, in ours.--Alaska Dispatch News