Finding True North

First-Hand Stories of the Booms that Built Modern Alaska

Molly Rettig

Finding True North

Molly Rettig

Distributed for University of Alaska Press

201 pages | 6 x 9
Paper $21.95 ISBN: 9781602234437 Published March 2021
E-book $21.95 ISBN: 9781602234444 Published March 2021

Melting sea ice and rumbling volcanoes. Sled dogs racing through unnamed valleys.

These were the images that came to mind when Molly Rettig moved to Fairbanks, Alaska to work as a reporter at the local newspaper. An avid environmentalist, she couldn’t wait to explore the vast, untamed spaces that had largely been paved over on the east coast. But when her 72-year-old neighbor, Clutch, invites her on a tour of his gold mine—an 800-foot tunnel blasted into the side of his house–she begins to question many of her ideas about Alaska, and about herself. 

In Finding True North, Rettig takes us on a gripping journey through Alaska's past that brings alive the state's magnificent country and its quirky, larger-than-life characters. She meets a trapper who harvests all she needs from the land, a bush pilot who taught himself how to fly, and an archaeologist who helped build an oil pipeline through pristine wilderness. While she learns how airplanes, mines, and oil fields have paved the way for newcomers like herself, she also stumbles upon a bigger question: what has this quest for Alaska’s natural resources actually cost, and how much more is at stake?

This is a book about all the ways wild places teach us about ourselves. Rettig writes both playfully and honestly about how one place can be many things to many people—and how all of it can be true.

Part 1: Gold
Chapter 1: A Gold Rush Town
Chapter 2: The Stampede
Chapter 3: Frozen Gold
Chapter 4: Going Home
Chapter 5: Hot Rocks
Chapter 6: Gold Fever
Part 2: Air
Chapter 1: The Bush
Chapter 2: The Dream
Chapter 3: Beaver Creek
Chapter 4: Life on the River
Chapter 5: Kaboom
Chapter 6: Drafted
Part 3: Oil
Chapter 1: The Proposal
Chapter 2: Boom Time
Chapter 3: The Alaska Dream
Chapter 4: Mining Camp
Chapter 5: The Alaska Reality
Chapter 6: The Crash
Part 4: Subsistence
Chapter 1: Visiting the Land of Caribou
Chapter 2: Fending for Myself
Chapter 3: Filling the Freezer
Chapter 4: Oil vs. Food
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