Hardcover, 311 pages.
2022 National Outdoor Book Award Winner in Natural History Literature
A stunningly lyrical firsthand account of a life spent hunting, studying, and living alongside caribou, A Thousand Trails Home encompasses the historical past and present day, revealing the fragile intertwined lives of people and animals surviving on an uncertain landscape of cultural and climatic change sweeping the Alaskan Arctic. Author Seth Kantner vividly illuminates this critical story about the interconnectedness of the Iñupiat of Northwest Alaska, the Western Arctic Caribou Herd, and the larger Arctic region. This story has global relevance as it takes place in one of the largest remaining intact wilderness ecosystems on the planet, ground zero for climate change in the US. This compelling and complex tale revolves around the politics of caribou, race relations, urban vs. rural demands, subsistence vs. sport hunting, and cultural priorities vs. resource extraction―a story that requires a fearless writer with an honest voice and an open heart.
"A Thousand Trails Home is a book of supernal majesty, a book to break and restore your heart. Seth Kantner’s devotion to the living pulse and unity of the skein of wonder that is the Alaskan wilderness haunts and inspires me." -- Louise Erdrich, author of The Night Watchman
- Bestselling, award-winning author of Ordinary Wolves, a debut novel Publisher’s Weekly called “a tour de force”
- Conservation-based story of changing Arctic from an on-the-ground perpective
- Features full-color photography throughout
Excerpt from A Thousand Trails Home:
The night is cold and frosty, and again I’m standing out at the edge of a vast tundra, alone and listening to the immense silence, absorbing the arrival of winter and the Darkness. I shiver and shift, and the snow squeaks under my boots. On a tripod beside me, my camera perches, heavy and black and frozen. I’m on a high ridge along the Noatak River where I’ve built a small cabin for my daughter. A few yards away in the dark are crosses, grave markers, my only companions for the last month.
Overhead, a faint-green glow condenses like fog in front of the stars, and I consider attempting a photo but I don’t move toward my camera. From down the hill at the shore comes the eerie sound of new ice sheets settling, booming and echoing as huge fractures spear across the frozen river. Instinctively I glance over my shoulder in the darkness at the wooden crosses, rounded and thick with frost. I search in myself for fear and find none. I never knew these elders buried in this frozen ground but they feel benevolent.
My gaze roves farther, peering about for a late grizzly bear who has been out recently. It feels like an acquaintance of sorts, too, although one I trust less.
I turn back to the open tundra. The aurora has brightened. The outlines of mountains are visible now, reaching tall against the night sky. This is a big place, a broad valley where hills and mountains ring the vast plain of the Noatak flats. Fog is forming down in the flats, and I peer into the night straining to spot the dots of caribou. There is no movement. I see only dark lines of brush and the black silhouettes of small spruce trees scattered here and there, standing in snow and cold silence.
I imagine caribou out in this night—with no warm cabin nearby, no woodstove, no light, no AM radio. I picture a small herd: some animals alert, others resting, sleeping a few fitful moments and waking with a start to stare wide-eyed into this darkness—this night and every night—forever on guard, aware that each instant is eligible for a surprise attack, to be chased by jaws and claws, torn to shreds, killed, eaten.
What sort of life would that be? I wonder. To the north, a single faint light is visible, and gone, and visible again—a beacon on the airstrip at the village of Noatak, twenty miles away—a piercing reminder of the modern world. A Noatak man, an acquaintance named David Kelsey, told me this ridge once held a reindeer herders’ camp. I don’t know that history, but tonight standing here I can feel the old days, and the future too.
An exceptionally well written, impressively informative, and inherently fascinating read from first page to last. ― Midwest Book Review
The breathtaking photographs that illustrate this book, in concert with essays that describe all that is happening underfoot and beyond the horizon to unravel this beauty, make A Thousand Trails Home gut-wrenching in its impact. -- Richard Adams Carey ― Wall Street Journal
Beautifully written and deeply introspective, A Thousand Trails Home may be the book Kantner has been aiming his powers at all along, a masterwork only he could deliver. -- Nancy Lord ― Anchorage Daily News
…his own personal story…reads as the adventure Jack London and Jon Krakauer wished they had lived ― Booklist Starred review
A Thousand Trails Home is a labor of love that advocates for more balanced ways of treating caribou and protecting the amazing Alaskan wilderness. ― Foreword Reviews
Readers will gain a new appreciation of these magnificent ruminants through Kantner’s sharply focused eyes. ― Kirkus Reviews
A Thousand Trails Home is a literary tour de force that reaffirms Seth Kantner’s place as one of Alaska’s premier writers. An amalgam of intimate autobiography and impeccable nature writing, Kantner’s luminous prose transports the reader to a timeless world, shaped by great waves of hooves and antlers. -- Nick Jans ― author of A Wolf Called Romeo
Seth Kantner is the most interesting person and the finest writer I know. I savor his writing as I have savored the work of Annie Proulx and John McPhee. Nature is not landscape or subject matter for him; it is sustenance, literal and emotional. He doesn’t just write what he knows; he writes what he lives and breathes. This book is extraordinary. -- Mary Roach ― author of Stiff, Gulp, and Grunt
Beloved Alaskan author Seth Kantner has written his magnum opus. A Thousand Trails Home is an inspiring and important book about Alaskan culture, biology, philosophy, history--and love for the creature at the heart of life on the tundra. Through deft storytelling and exquisite, gut-wrenching prose, Kantner shows us how caribou might be the ultimate harbinger of what is to come for humanity if we can’t slow down and learn from the land, the elders, and those animals on whom our very existence depends. -- Don Rearden ― author of The Raven’s Gift
A Thousand Trails Home is both an intimate memoir of a family who made their home above the Arctic Circle, and a well-observed natural history of the caribou they hunted and consumed. Seth Kantner has become an important Alaskan writer with a singular voice--a humble and exacting observer of a world he is privileged to have experienced. The result is extraordinary. -- John Straley ― poet and author of the Cecil Younger Mysteries
A Thousand Trails Home is a book of supernal majesty, a book to break and restore your heart. Seth Kantner’s devotion to the living pulse and unity of the skein of wonder that is the Alaskan wilderness haunts and inspires me. -- Louise Erdrich ― author of The Night Watchman
Through a series of narratives, author Kantner unveils a life that revolves around the wilds of Northwest Arctic and the twice yearly migration of caribou. It’s about a life of subsistence – a life that had sustained native Alaskans, the Inupiat, for centuries. The hunting of caribou was central to their existence, and consequently there are frequent depictions of hunting in this book. But it is also about changes over the last decades – social, political, technological – which have altered the lifestyles of those who live there. It’s a book filled with wild passion and love of place that will keep you absorbed well into the night. ― National Outdoor Book Award Judges
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