Rhythm of the Wild: A Life Inspired by Alaska's Denali National Park

Kim Heacox (Author)
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From Kim Heacox, the acclaimed author of The Only Kayak and John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire, comes Rhythm of the Wild, an Alaska memoir focused on Denali National Park. Music runs through every page of this book, as do stories, rivers and wolves. At its heart, Rhythm of the Wild is a love story. It begins in 1981 and ends in 2014, yet reaches beyond the arc of time. Author and mountaineer Jonathan Waterman has called Heacox "our northern Edward Abbey." In this book we find out why. We hitchhike with Kim through Idaho, camp on the Colorado Plateau, and fly off the sand cliffs of Hangman Creek with a little terrier named Super Max, the Wonder Dog. We meet Zed, the Aborigine; Nine Fingers, the blues guitarist; and Adolph Murie, the legendary wildlife biologist, who dared to say that wolves should be protected, not persecuted. Kim also reprises in this book his friend Richard Steele, a beloved character from The Only Kayak. Some books are larger than their actual subject--this is one. Part memoir, part exploration of Denali's inspiring natural and human history, and part conservation polemic, Rhythm of the Wild ranges from funny to provocative. It's a celebration of--and a plea to restore and defend--the vibrant earth and our rightful place in it.

Product Details

Lyons Press
Publish Date
May 07, 2015
6.2 X 1.0 X 9.2 inches | 1.0 pounds
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About the Author

Kim Heacox, a former park ranger in Alaska's Denali, Glacier Bay, and Katmai National Parks, has written a dozen books, most of them on history, biography, and conservation. Rhythm of the Wild is his second memoir, something of a sister book to The Only Kayak (Lyons Press), a 2006 PEN USA Literary Award finalist in creative nonfiction and now in its tenth printing. A keen musician, Kim plays guitar and piano and lives with his wife, Melanie, in the little town of Gustavus, Alaska. Find him on Facebook or visit him at kimheacox.com.


Rhythm of the Wild is a beautifully written book that you simply cannot put down. Kim Heacox has returned (finally!) to his roots in this follow-up memoir to his bestselling, inspiring, and life-changing book, The Only Kayak. The literary fabric of Kim Heacox's new memoir comprises two strands intricately woven together. One is Kim Heacox's personal story of why his heart has consistently and slightly irreverently beaten to the rhythm of the north. The second is the carefully assembled argument that ongoing planetary degradation by human societies is avoidable and incredibly unacceptable. Kim Heacox is Alaska's Naomi Klein, urging us to thoroughly re-examine our ways of life and consumptive choices, pointing in clear and succinct prose to the direct consequences of our actions: the degradations of our beloved wild spaces. Kim Heacox urges us to take a moment and listen to the music of this world, and hear in the rhythms of our planet evidence of a world on the edge. Action, Kim Heacox reminds us, starts within. - M. Jackson, author of While Glaciers Slept: Being Human in a Time of Climate Change and Arctic expert for The National Geographic Society
"How can a book about Denali National Park not be a book about America? How can a book about America not be about The Beatles, war, mining, bears, global warming, counterculture, friendship, Edward Abbey and, of course, the self coming into its wild and peculiar and beautiful self? What sets Kim Heacox apart as a nature writer is the deep, generous humanity that underpins his knowledge of species and ecosystems. He writes toward connection, wholeness. Friendship and music are as integral to that as acres of preserved land. Rhythm of the Wild honors the quest to reclaim a life shaped by river and weather, seasons and creatures, conversations and song. Kim Heacox writes toward joy." -- Elizabeth Bradfield, author of Once Removed and Approaching Ice
In his previous impressive book, John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire, Heacox investigated the ways Alaska's landscape affected the life and writing of the great naturalist. Now, in a memoir focused on his long relationship with Denali National Park, he returns to the personal writing style that brought him wide acclaim. . . .He writes eloquently of his experiences getting to know the park's landscape and wildlife. There is some humor as he shares experiences with tourists and visiting politicians, and also some frustration over Alaska's endless love-hate relationship with it's wildlife, especially wolves. And he shares stories from his youth, including delightful music and literary references. But Heacox excels at conveying his deep love for the land, and his ability to make the case for its significance to American life elevates him to the highest level of nature writing. . . .This is an author at the top of his game; a true national treasure.--Booklist, Starred Review
Former National Park Service ranger Heacox (John Muir and the Ice that Started a Fire: How a Visionary and the Glaciers of Alaska Changed America, 2014, etc.) lyrically recounts his passionate and enduring relationship with Alaska's Denali National Park, a chunk of Alaskan land the size of Massachusetts with only one road. Established in 1917, Mount McKinley National Park is also known by its Athabaskan name of Denali, and Heacox first experienced it in 1981 while working as an interpretive ranger for the Park Service. The author builds his narrative, which spans 35 years, on his deep and personal exploration of the sacredness of wild places, especially Denali, and why these landscapes are so necessary to all humans and animals in today's crowded, noisy world. Heacox deftly traverses a multitude of topics, including his happy childhood spent roaming the Northwest, the influence of music, especially the Beatles, during his teenage years, and the natural and human histories of the park. As the narrative unfolds, the author acknowledges his predecessors, environmental writers such as John Muir, Edward Abbey and Bill McKibben, while also touching on current environmental issues and climate change. Though Heacox voices strong opinions on land use and bemoans America's consumer culture, his tone is never shrill or self-righteous. Rather, by recounting the stories of the explorers, scientists, government officials, historians, tourists, climbers and park employees whose lives have been touched by Denali, Heacox skillfully reveals the many benefits of this grand open space, as well as its fragility. The park's wildlife--moose, eagles, red fox, sandhill cranes, grizzly bears, porcupines and wolves--share the stage with human actors in Heacox's chronicle. Top-notch environmental writing to shelve alongside George Perkins Marsh, Aldo Leopold, Robert Marshall and Barry Lopez.--Kirkus
Rhythm of the Wild: A life Inspired by Alaska's Denali National Park is a 304 page Alaska memoir framed against the wild and wonders of the Denali National Park. Rhythm of the Wild begins in 1981 and ends in 2014. . . .Part memoir, part travelogue exploration of Denali's inspiring natural and human human history, and part conservationist polemic, Rhythm of the Wild ranges from funny to provocative in a kind of celebration of (and a plea to restore and defend) the vibrant earth and our rightful place in it. An inherently fascinating read, Rhythm of the Wild is very highly recommended for community and academic library American Biography collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that Rhythm of the Wild is also available in a Kindle edition.--Midwest Book Review
"This book does with Denali what Edward Abbey's 'Desert Solitaire' did with Arches National Park, showing how freedom and wilderness are bound together, and how the loss of one is both caused by leads to the destruction of the other."--Alaska Dispatch News