When you set out to travel four thousand miles over the course of three years—along a somewhat watery and often isolated northern boundary—you’re going to pick up a few good stories on the way.
In Northland: A 4,000-Mile Journey Along America’s Forgotten Border, Porter Fox ’94 traces the mostly unmarked and still disputed borderline between the U.S. and Canada from the town docks of Lubec, Maine, to Peace Arch Park in Blaine, Washington. He navigates his travels as congenially as his circumstances—piloting his canoe, connecting with local guides, and hopping freighters and car rides as needed.
Much like the line that bridges the two countries, winding through small towns and everyday lives, Fox takes time to connect our shared history, politics, and geology in an engaging around-the-campfire style of storytelling. A late-night slog along the St. Croix in his canoe recalls the trials of a pioneering Samuel de Champlain; the rocky terrain below his feet evokes the immensity of glacial geology; and a visit to Standing Rock reminds us of the very real and current issues related to oil in both countries.
He follows the routes of past explorers and big industry traders and crosses paths with modern militia leaders and stoic border officers—all with the ease and humor of a seasoned traveler and journalist. He makes his way through a pocketed existence that is as steeped in history as it is riven by change.
Northland is an enjoyable and educational read, but it’s also highly relevant and meaningful in today’s fast-changing world.