Thursday, January 08, 2009

Call of the Wild - Guy Grieve - Review

I've just finished reading this book and thought I'd put up my thoughts here.
The writer is a bit of an odd guy leaving his wife and young family to go and live the best part of a year in the Alaskan interior, what's even odder is that he does it without ever having a really good reason for doing so. This element is what has led to some of the more negative reviews of the book on amazon.
If you can get past the guy's charachter, and it is by no means a big problem, then you have quite a good book on your hands. Some of the things he is taught by the locals and natives are really interesting and although it isn't really an instruction book there is a bit you can learn from it.
So what did I learn from this book?

  • A Sandvik bush axe is a fairly important tool when it comes to establishing portages and paths to a base camp.
  • A dog is pretty useful for retrieving, stopping you going "bushy" (kind of crazy) and for warning you of bears
  • Most people eaten by bears (which can take over an hour before they kill you as they start eating from the bottom up!) are people with no dog and no gun
  • If you don't listen to local knowledge then you're going to suffer
  • At -60 and miles from help death is almost part of life - you're never that safe.
  • Not listening to the voice inside your head and being overconfident are the fatest ways of dieing
  • Commercial gear isn't really up to day-in, day-out bush living
He did have a couple of odd seeming ideas like using an axe handle to knock off small branches when limbing a tree - he claimed it was safer but it sounds like a good way of breaking an axe handle.
There is an appendix of all the equipment he used and a few comments about how well it worked at the back of the book.
Overall, if your interested in cold weather bushcraft it is well worth a read. It is no-where near as useful as the Snow Walker's Companion but it is a nice book anyway.


schwuk said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and its insights into (semi-)solitary living in such a harsh environment, but I can understand some of the comments about his 'selfish character' for undertaking such an outing in the first place. However this does not get in the way of the book at all, and I highly recommend it.

Anonymous said...

In Interior Alaska most of the branches on the black spruce are smaller than #2 pencils and very brittle... Using the axe handle to basically rake them off is much faster and safer than using the blade.

Seems odd to folks used to deciduous trees but its actually very practical.

sam_acw said...

Thanks for the comments!
Good to know about the spruce branches and axe handle - plenty of evergreen trees here in some forests but they tend to have no branches on most of their length as they are plantation trees.
Schwuk, I agree - he seems a bit odd but it's still a really great read.

Pablo said...

I've just read this too and agree with the comments and learning.
I also noted that working at a slower pace stops build up of sweat which could freeze.

Pablo said...

The last comment about building up a sweat was by me by the way!

Mungo Says Bah! said...

I've been reading it for the second time during my time at the hospital while my new baby was warming up!

It is a terrific book - I look forward to reading his book about wild edibles.