Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Before They're Gone (copy)

The news is so depressing lately. All this talk of global warming and its effects has me wanting to chuck my car and bike it to work. Of course, I would never be able to do that. I am too vain. What will my hair look like after biking eight miles in morning traffic?!?

Any-hoo, I was drawn to a book that uses global warming as a call to get out and enjoy our National Parks while they are still enjoyable. We have all felt the dry heat and drought of June and the idea of hiking in the mountains of Washington’s Mount Rainer National Park or kayaking in Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park sounds heavenly.

In Michael Lanza’s prologue to the book Before They’re Gone: A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks, he and the family trek into as many “climate-threatened” parks as they can physically do in a year. These parks include eleven of our nation’s greatest such as Everglades, Yellowstone, North Cascades, Yosemite, and Joshua Tree National Park.

Their first trip took place in March 2010. Wife, Penny, and children, 7-year-old Alexandria (Alex) and 9-year-old Nathan (Nate), accompanied Michael during the weekend long hike down into, through and back up Grandview Trail in Grand Canyon National Park.

The goat path being very treacherous, Michael wonders, “Do parents whose children spend five hours a day in front of an electronic screen ever grapple with the judgment call vexing me now: is this really a good idea?” I can answer no; parents do not but think of what their children are missing.

This book, although depressing in scope, is an adventure at heart. We follow Alex and Nate tramping through the flora with their wide eyes focused on the fauna. Michael uses them as a barometer for all the outings. When they start to drag their little feet, it is either time to get a snack, eat lunch or make camp.

We learn interesting facts in the book, too. Did you know that there are two natural oases in the Grand Canyon bottoms? One hosts a rare white, red-bud tree that will not make the ensuing climate change. The hotter weather results in less snow fall and snow that does accumulate melts faster. These oases are both a direct result of spring snow melts.

I’ll leave you with a quote I thought insightful. Jim Roche, a hydrologist with the Yosemite National Park said, “Snow is…an endangered resource.” This past June, rain was too.

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