Thursday, May 03, 2007

Lost In My Own Backyard (copy)

Do you remember when you first discovered your backyard? One’s excitement overflows as he follows inch worms, finds four leaf clovers, and climbs maple trees. Before long, one might begin to look over the fence at a neighbor’s backyard. By the age of eight, I was allowed to roam the entire neighborhood as long as I remained mindful of my dad’s whistling distance. (Like a cell phone, I knew my coverage area.)

Author Tim Cahill lives 50 miles north of Yellowstone National Park and considers this his backyard. And what a backyard! One can spend a lifetime discovering the 2.22 million acres of mountains and valleys filled with geysers, mud pots, and thermal springs. In the past 25 years, Cahill has done just that.

Cahill’s book, Lost In My Own Backyard, isn’t a guide book, but rather an answer to frequent Yellowstone questions. For instance, “How close is too close to a bison?” Um, silly question, but Cahill claims common sense lacking in some tourist. He has a special name for those who edge closer and closer to a bison for that amazing, once-in-a-lifetime shot, “instamatic injury.” He adds, “If the tail goes up it means either charge or discharge.”

I feel in love with Cahill’s style of writing. He talks to the reader such as an actor, who faces the camera, might tell a plot twist. In the first section of the book titled, “Trails,” he employs his mini-me as a discussion partner on the trail. On the Mt. Washburn trail we overhear older Cahill telling younger, know-it-all self, how not to be a “dumb butt” as they view the “embarrassment of wonders” which is the park.

In the second section titled, “In the Backcountry,” the reader visits the park few have ever seen. Cahill says out of a billion visitors a year, 99.2% never venture into the backcountry for an overnight stay. Could it be all those “Beware of Bear” signs? Cahill is one of the few who have seen rare moonbows, petrified forests and odd faces in the hoodoo formations while walking the outback.

To my librarian’s delight, his last section is titled, “A Selected Yellowstone Bookshelf.” His shelves contain guidebooks, trail maps, and educational books associated with the park, such as biology, history, and geology. The first book mentioned, Lonely Planet Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks, just happens to include his written forward.

I highly recommend this humorous book to anyone about to explore America’s first backyard, Yellowstone National Park.