Just in time for summer's backpacking and camping season, The Last Season has arrived in paperback. I reviewed this book a year ago shortly after it hit the market in a hardcover-edition and it's well-worth your time if you like a true-life mystery involving a legendary backcountry ranger in Kings Canyon National Park.
NPT Reviews of Books and other Material
A collection of book reviews to help you pick the perfect read for your national park escape
Most of us, I think, envision the creation of national parks as a process intended to preserve spectacular beauty or a poignant moment in history for today and tomorrow. And while the Blue Ridge Parkway does indeed freeze a pastoral moment in Appalachian history, the impetus behind the highway was not so altruistic, as Ms. Whisnant's narrative points out.
Though I'm only a rough handful of pages into the book, there are several passages that resonated with me when I think of the current battles facing the national park system. Let me leave them with you to ponder this long weekend:
Clearly written and beautifully illustrated with color photographs of the canyon and maps and diagrams explaining the geologic forces at work, the book is not a heavy, geologic treatise. Rather, it entices one into turning the pages via a conversational tone, much as if you were standing on the South Rim discussing the canyon face-to-face with Ranney.
One of the most direct books I've read on avoiding bears in the backcountry is Dave Smith's Backcountry Bear Basics, which just came out in its second edition.
A fan of non-fiction books, particularly those with a natural history bent, I figured The Swamp by Michael Grunwald would be a perfect match for my interests. After all, as the subtitle pointed out, this book focuses on "The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise."
You'll find all sorts of charts that let you know whether a particular hike is one-way or roundtrip, steep or level, good for mountain bikers or equestrians, child friendly, and on and on. In fact, the charts and their symbols are so plentiful that the book actually takes a section to explain how to use this information.
I'm so impressed with Eric Blehm's "The Last Season," an accounting of the disappearance of Randy Morgenson, a backcountry ranger who spent 28 seasons in Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks before vanishing into a void. It's a mystery that perhaps will appeal largely only to parkies, but it's one masterfully told.
While there are many national park guidebooks out there that include sections on lodging, they don't always cover every possibility, and if they do, it's often just in passing. The solution just might be "The Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges," ($18.95 MSRP) a comprehensive, almost encyclopedic, book by David and Kay Scott that launched its fifth edition earlier this year.
So many current issues in the parks are too complex to convey in a simple blog post, which is part of the reason I have enjoyed the deeper analysis that these books provide. If park books are on your mind this summer, the following list may contain a book or two that you'll enjoy reading during the summer break.
What I liked about working on National Parks With Kids is that it allowed me to take a slightly different look at the parks. For sure, parks are family friendly. But when you're trying to guide families with young kids into the parks, well, you can't focus on 18-mile round-trip hikes and scaling the Grand Teton.
An important anniversary happens this year that actually predates the National Park Service. It has been 100 years that we have had Antiquities Act in this country. This single act is responsible for a lot of the places we treasure today around the Parks.
In 'Yellowstone to Yukon: Freedom to Roam', a collection of 200 pictures and essays from such notable nature writers as David Quammen, Rick Bass and Douglas Chadwick strives to lend context to the proposal to create a wildlife corridor from Yellowstone all the way north to the Yukon.
Taken as a whole, the book documents Abbey's love affair with the desert country near Moab, Utah. Through his words we see the whole landscape, from the very small (birds, snakes, rabbits and mice that live in and near his trailer), to the very large (mountain tops, mesas, and canyons). But, for as beautiful a picture as he paints, he cautions the reader in the book's introduction, this landscape is disappearing fast.
With a good sense of fire history stretching back over 100 years, and with a focus on the characters who have helped shaped wild land fire management over that same time, the book succeeds in creating a well rounded snapshot of the relationship fire has with forestlands in the West.