Heimo Korth is a true Alaskan Artic Bush frontiersman. My husband and I enjoy watching the TV show, The Last Alaskans, of which Heimo and his wife, Edna and now his one daughter, Krin, returns with her husband and their toddler son, to try their hand at living a nomadic, off the grid life in the Alaskan Artic wilderness. This book tells of Heimos turbulent childhood and teen age years growing up with a father who drank and hit. Alas, we all know how some people can be like oil and water, and this was Heimo and his father; they were at their worst when together and when booze fueled their tempers. I truly think Heimo always had the urge, the yearning, for a different kind of life. When he made the decision to leave Wisconsin and go to Alaska, he had the love, determination and inner drive to do so. And he would vacillate in hard times, back and forth about returning to Wisconsin, or to town, or back to Alaska. They both want to live and work together on the land they love to the day they die. The book also touches upon their meeting and courtship, both Edna and Heimos family members and then, their own family. I cant imagine living in a small dark cabin in the wilderness without the most basic modern conveniences. Heimo and Edna live in the isolated Alaskan Artic Refuge. Cabins are strictly permitted per family, allowing only family members to continue living on that land til the death of their last original familys child. The refuge is /was governed by the US fish and wildlife service, yet overseen by many other politically run committees and policy makers. Heimo Korth, mountain man, frontiersman, Alaskan bush trapper, wilderness scout/guide, packer, Artic ice pack man, seal, walrus and whale hunter, substinence hunter and forager, cabin builder, survivalist, fisherman, hunter, husband, father, son and brother, and a friend to basically everyone he met. In time, the Artic Refuge will no longer have anyone living there.
It is truly inspiring to see a man and his family build a fulfilling, simple, happy life in one of the most inhospitable places on earth. Still, this is the most memorable book I've ever read and dare anyone to walk away feeling untouched by the amazing life of Heimo Korth.
Wilderness is other than human, the second humans move into it, it becomes frontier, at least that seems to be its definition to most people. This idea is not modern, always in religious texts the wilderness was away from civilization, in fairytales its the dark and dangerous background to the safety of civilization, and today its legally defined so that once the Korths and a few similar families finish their time on Gods green Earth (or Gods frozen tundra in their case) the Colleen Basin frontier will return to wilderness- there will be no more permits for homesteaders there and it will become the wildlife refuge it was made designated to be in the 1970s. In protecting it, we may be killing it, because we risk too many people forgetting the myth and grandeur and importance of natural-states, of frontier, of wilderness. We need them to be humans in wilderness, to be wild people, to be a voice for nature and a way of life that we are literally legislating out of existence.
Heimo Korth knows the romantics won't last in Alaska. The book documents his earlier life before going to Alaska and his life and raising a family, once there. A very informative book, recommended to anyone who feels that he/she is living the life that is "right" not the life one dreamed of.
The only issue I had with the book, intermixed between the tales of Korth family's adventures, was detailed history about Alaska itself, which while adding context to the story, these details felt long winded and very in-depth, and I at times found myself becoming bored and losing focus while reading.
The author is brought out via chartered plane to visit Heimo Korth and his family on the Coleen River in Northwestern Alaska, hundreds of miles from the nearest road and seemingly centuries away from the hustle of Fort Yokun and Fairbanks.
Unlike most other men though, Heimo actually gave it all up to venture into the wild. And unlike those men who also sought life beyond the nine-to-five routine and gave everything up in pursuit of it, Heimo largely succeeded, remaining in the wild for decades until, in this book's final pages, he too is drawn back to "civilization". I found myself drawing comparisons to Chris McCandless, the young man whose life story was immortalized in Jon Krakauer's "Into the Wild" and the later film of the same name.
His fascination with New Guinea and the war in the South Pacific led him to the story of the 32nd Division, the Ghost Mountain Boys, and his book of the same name. The Ghost Mountain Boys: Their Epic March and the Terrifying Battle for New Guinea the Forgotten War of the South Pacific was chosen as a Book-of-the-Month Club selection and History and Military BOMC selections.