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.
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.
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.