Boise outdoor writer Michael Lanza’s new book about his family’s backcountry odyssey through America’s national parks is getting the kind of attention an author loves.
The Today Show has run two online interviews about his book “Before They’re Gone.” National Park Traveler and the Washington Post both have done reviews and The Atlantic has run a story from the book about Yosemite’s disappearing waterfalls.
The book follows Lanza, the Northwest Field Editor for Backpacker Magazine, his wife Penny Beach, his then-nine-year-old son Nate and then-seven-year-old daughter Alex, on a year long tour of 11 of the nation’s most endangered national parks from climate change.
The idea came after he did a backcountry ski tour with a glacier expert though Glacier National Park on assignment for Backpacker. The expert told him when he was in the park its glacier’s were expected to melt away by 2030.
Later he called Lanza back to say new evidence shows they will be gone by 2020.
“It got me thinking, a lot of these things will happen in my lifetime and many even more profound things will happen in my children’s lifetime,” Lanza said.
Alex already was a good enough hiker to climb thousands of feet a day and keep up with adults by 2009, Lanza said. Nate was an accomplished backpacker by then.
Working around the kids school schedule and Beach’s family doctor hours, they backpacked through the Grand Canyon, Glacier, the North Cascades, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain and Olympic National Park. They hiked to Yosemite’s waterfalls, rock climbed in Joshua Tree National Park, sea kayaked in Alaska’s Glacier Bay, canoed the Everglades and cross-country skied through Yellowstone.
In each park they saw how the varied ecosystems were dramatically changing in the course of a lifetime. In addition to the glaciers, Yosemite’s waterfalls are drying up and like in Idaho, the Sierra Nevada’s snow pack is melting earlier.
Visitors who want to see the waterfalls in their full glory will have to visit the park earlier and in a shorter window. The trip turned out to be both family experience and science lesson that was “gloomy and fascinating,” Lanza said. His story also is a great way to talk about climate change.
Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods,” has said that environmentalists have failed to convey the facts about global warming in part because you can’t make people go somewhere the don’t want. “Martin Luther King didn’t say I have a nightmare,” Louv said.
Lanza takes readers to some of America’s most cherished places on a trip that many parents would dream about. But he also shows how climate change is going to change them permanently no matter what we do now.
With his insight he gives people a chance to consider what they can do to keep these places special long past his children’s lifetimes.
Along with the way readers can learn many tips for taking their kids on backcountry trips. Lanza will be teaching a workshop on taking kids into the wilderness June 24 at the Green Expo at the Ada County Fairgrounds.
Lanza and Beach are the kind of creative class professionals that Boise still attracts and help make life here interesting and attractive to others like them.
That’s good for the economy, experts say. Lanza and Beach moved to Boise from New Hampshire in 1998 after looking all over the West for a new home.
A friend suggested they check out Boise and they were hooked, “once we realized that Boise and Idaho offered so much that is available elsewhere.” That's a contrast to many cities today that can't attract young professionals or college graduates because of the lack of the lifestyle they love.
They moved to Boise’s North End and Friday Alex, now 9 and Nate, now 11, finished their last day of school at Cynthia Mann Elementary. You can learn more about Lanza at his website: TheBigOutside.com
Here's a video: