It takes a lot more than the vague "from sea to shining sea" description to establish one of the world's longest national borders. As Maine native Porter Fox (Deep) learns in his journey along the Canada/United States border, it took nearly 150 years to lay monument markers along the western 49th parallel boundary line. In the east, however, much of the border roams through lakes, rivers, bays and canals--Fox's travel by kayak or freighter could just as easily put him in one country as the other. Northland is an account of his journeys along the northern edge of the United States, and includes a healthy dose of the history of early explorers and Native American resettlements in the northern Great Plains.
He begins in tiny Lubec, Maine, the easternmost town in the United States, originally "populated by bootleggers, businessmen, snake-oil salesmen, fishing families, smugglers, shipbuilders, and frontiersmen." Following the route of many explorers, he makes his way to the St. Lawrence River and into the Great Lakes. From the western tip of Superior to the Pacific Ocean, however, Fox trades his kayak and life jacket for a good truck and camper. Supposedly nailed to the 49th parallel as the "longest straight border in the world," up close, the boundary squiggles around and the highway gets diverted through various Indian reservations, mountain ranges, lakes and dense forests.
While Northland touches on various political disputes related to Native American issues, oil and gas production, and fishing and water rights, it is more an engaging travel memoir. Like the meandering border itself, Fox wanders down whatever path catches his interest. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.