REVIEW -TWO IN A RED CANOE
Baldino, Megan and Matt Hage, Foreword by Barbara Washburn. Two in a Red Canoe: Our Journey Down the Yukon. Graphic Arts Books. Softbound. 120 pages. Color illustrations. $18.95.
Two handsome young people decide to journey down the Yukon River in a canoe. They give themselves all summer, three months, to accomplish the trip. Matt was raised in Alaska, was an outdoor sort, and Megan, from Chicago, was a television presenter in Fairbanks. (Presenters are perky young women who read the news. Announcers are flabby middle-aged guys who read the news.)
As adventures go, this was rather limp. Megan was terrified of bears, and we do develop a mild curiosity as to whether sheíll be killed or perhaps just mauled, but no bears were ever seen. Just tracks.
The chief excitement was encountering the waves in the river. Since we donít know how much paddling experience they had had before, we canít tell how much actual danger they were in, or if choppy water was new to them.
The author tries to enliven the story with snippets of history of the villages along the river. Unfortunately, more, lots more, research should have been done. An egregious example is Fort Selkirk in the Yukon. Exactly why the Northern Tutchone, an inland people, would have traded mother-of-pearl, dried seal fat, and seaweed to the Hudsonís Bay traders at the post, is not explained. The coastal Chilkat Tlingits traded these items to the Tutchone, and were highly displeased when Selkirk was established in 1852. There is no evidence Chief Trader Robert Campbell was tied to a raft during the raid, but it is known he was not allowed to re-establish the post for fear of further angering the Chilkats.
George Black, for whom a ferry at Dawson City is named, was not just "a commissioner"; he was The Commissioner of the Yukon Territory and later Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada.
However, this book is not meant for historians, but for the interested public. The couple didnít quite make the Bering Sea before summer ended, so Hage returned the next year and completed the trip.
The biggest plus is Hageís photographs, which truly shine. The travelers seemed to go ashore at every village on the river, and there are some wonderful photos of people and places. The lay-out is also a treat, as is the clean editing.
Overall, the lovely pictures do make this worth spending $18.95 on. Just donít expect much else.