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Some Good Reads To Prepare You For The National Parks


Heading to a national park for the first time can be intimidating. Where should you go, what should you see, what do you need to know before you pass through the entrance gate?

Alan Leftridge'™s The Best of Glacier National Park (Farcountry Press) is invaluable for visitors to the park'™s high peaks, big lakes, and great wildlife of this amazing alpine landscape. This book is small enough (It'™s a well-bound paperback of 136 pages, and measures 8 1/2' x 5 1/2') to fit into your daypack, or rest on your dashboard, and yet it'™s jam-packed with enough information to make your trip to Glacier a great one. It'™s practical, and practically perfect.

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If you'™re planning a trip to Glacier, a good primer of this landscape known as the Crown of the Continent (a tag applied to the region in the 1890s by George Bird Grinnell) is Crown of the Continent, The Wildest Rockies. Steven Gnam'™s gorgeous book of photography brings the landscape and its wildlife, the region'™s residents, even its emotions, into focus. It'™s an appropriately large format that displays the Rockies in a 250-mile-stretch from western Montana to Alberta, Canada, the heart of the Crown of the Continent. Complimenting Gnam'™s photographs are essays by Douglas Chadwick, Michael Jamison, Dylan Boyle, and Karsten Heuer that add heft to the imagery.

One of the joys of hiking the Appalachian Mountains from Shenandoah National Park down to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is watching the dancing waters of waterfalls. Across this rumpled region that stretches more than 500 miles are countless waterfalls that draw visitors throughout the year, whether they come to counter the cloaking heat and humidity of summer or marvel at the intricate iceworks of winter. For a cheat sheet to find these cataracts, Waterfalls of the Blue Ridge comes in handy.

Now in its 4th edition, this book provides entries on more than 120 waterfalls, from flumes 50 feet long to cataracts that plunge more than 100 feet. There are general locator maps, GPS coordinates, and a too-short section of beautiful full-color pictures.

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Photographing Acadia National Park: The Essential Guide To When, Where, And How is more than just a guide to taking great photos of this jewel. Colleen J. Miniuk-Sperry, who so far has enjoyed three stints as 'œartist- in-residence' in Acadia, might have been writing a guidebook to the park, so thorough are her entries when it comes to trails and landscapes in Acadia. Photographers, aspiring and experienced, will appreciate her discussions of angles, filters, tides, and timing, as well as the history that makes Acadia such a stunning national park.

Rocky Mountain National Park doesn'™t officially check off its 100th birthday until September 2015, but that doesn'™t mean you can'™t celebrate the centennial now with a book that looks back over those 100 years. In Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years, Mary Taylor Young tells a wonderful story through lively writing paired with beautiful photographs from yesterday and today. Though presented in a coffee-table size (10.5 inches by 12 inches), this book isn'™t simply to admire from afar. With a century of historical material to work with, Ms. Young has fashioned a narrative that is part history lesson and part love story between this park and those who have come to know it.

Over the past 14 years, there have been just two editions of the Sibley Guide to Birds by David Allen Sibley; the second of which arrived just months ago. The name Sibley is synonymous with the birding field guide, much as Peterson was for decades. Ask ten birders to recommend a guide and nine of them will at least mention Sibley, if not list it outright as the best. As Traveler'™s bird expert, Kirby Adams, notes, the second edition includes Sibley'™s attention- to-detail text 'œcovering the vital measurements, physical description, habits and habitat, voice, and range. And, of course, paintings that help you identify what you hear and see in the field. The range maps have also been tweaked where needed, with Sibley'™s trademark attention to detail.'

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Fields that your parents might have run through as children these days are often now parking lots or crowded with buildings. The fishing hole they that cooled off the hot summer days might also be gone. The animals your great-grandparents might have been aware of in the forests might exist only in books or zoos today.

And the same can be said of your great-grandparents: the natural world their great-grandparents knew likely also was much, much different than what they experienced.

But that'™s not to say you don'™t encounter 'œnature.' It'™s just that the nature you'™re familiar with is not the same as that which past generations encountered. That'™s the message J.B. MacKinnon pushes through in his latest book, The Once and Future World: Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be.

Creating national parks is not a clean, simple process, and that certainly was not the case with Grand Teton National Park, where a little subterfuge was needed to preserve the landscapes millions of visitors enjoy each year. More than a few landowners and politicians opposed the expansion of the Jackson Hole National Monument that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established in 1943 into the wonderfully panoramic national park that exists today. How the expansion was accomplished is outlined by Robert W. Righter in his latest book, Peaks, Politics & Passion, Grand Teton National Park Comes of Age ($24.95 from the Grand Teton Association).

Winter is the time for dreaming, and planning, the following summer'™s vacation, which makes Bill Sherwonit'™s book on Denali National Park a good resource to turn to.

True, many of us might never make it to Alaska to visit Denali, but Denali National Park: The Complete Visitors Guide To The Mountain, Wildlife, And Year-Round Outdoor Activities entices us not only with details on campgrounds and hiking trails, but digs deeper to provide history of the area dating back to the Ice Age, and helpful information on wildlife.


Highly recommend Mr. MacKinnon's book.  It would be good if some of our frequent commentors here could (would) read it and do some serious thinking.

But that's about like hoping for something sensible from Congress.

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