‘scenic science of the national parks,’ by Emily Hoff and Maygen Keller

This beautifully illustrated, well-written guide presents a capsule of information about each U. S. National park in an easy-to-use format that will make this a take-into-the-field companion. There’s even a place for each park’s “passport” stamp.

For each park, you’ll find a superlative statement, crowd-pleaser hikes, primary mammals and plants, a so-called “iconic experience,” and a “worth noting” fact. This book uses illustrations rather than coffee-table-book photographs. These are immensely helpful in making quick identifications of what you’ll see in the park.

When I first picked up this book, I looked up the parks I know well and found the information to be accurate and spot-on in terms of each park’s ambiance and character.

From the Publisher

Explore the fascinating science behind the national parks in this charming illustrated guide.

The national parks are some of the most beloved, visited, and biodiverse places on Earth. They’re also scientific playgrounds where you can learn about plants, animals, and our planet’s coolest geological features firsthand. Scenic Science of the National Parks curates and breaks down the compelling and offbeat natural science highlights of each park, from volcanic activity, glaciers, and coral reefs to ancient redwood groves, herds of bison, giant bats, and beyond. Featuring full-color illustrations, information on the history and notable features of each park, and insider tips on how to get the most out of your visit, this delightful book is the perfect addition to any park lover’s collection.

From the Opening Pages

We know this looks like a book, but our collection of pages is actually more like a secret decoder ring or a pair of X-ray glasses because it will help you see some of the most iconic landscapes in the United States in a whole new way. Whether you’re traveling through the national parks by car, bicycle, boat, or foot, or even in your imagination, this is an opportunity to unlock the scientific stories behind the scenery.

This guidebook will teach you to spot the extraterrestrial-like organisms lurking in Yellowstone, the spiky teddy bear clones in Joshua Tree, the slick snails of Acadia—and more! Contained here are true stories about plants, rocks, animals, bodies of water, and the night sky that you aren’t likely to find anywhere else than in these parks. We’ve steered away from people-centric history and from big, obvious questions (like, How did the Grand Canyon form?) in favor of more fascinating, offbeat questions (like, How are strange ocean animals that look like plants connected to the rocks that make up the Grand Canyon?). This is an invitation to be inquisitive and pay attention to the small details that bring the big picture into view.

We had a blast writing this book and hope our work sets you off on a question-asking frenzy of your own. Go forth and get curious!

This is the best general national parks guidebook I’ve seen in a long time. Better yet, it was an early Father’s Day gift from my daughter.


P.S. I had her permission to open the package early!

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing


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Review: ‘The Best of Glacier National Park,’ by Alan Leftridge

The Best of Glacier National Park, by Alan Leftridge, Farcountry Press (April 30, 2013), 136 pages, photographs, maps, resources

BoGlacier cover flat r1.indd“We’re here! What should we do, what is there to see?” In the preface to his practical and well-illustrated Glacier National Park guidebook, Alan Leftridge writes that as a park ranger, he often heard those questions from excited visitors who “wanted to start making memories.”

Many of Glacier’s two million annual visitors travel a long way to reach northwestern Montana, and when they arrive, they are not only in awe of the scenery but of the scope of the prospective activities that await them in a 1,012,837-acre preserve with 762 lakes and 745.6 miles of trails. While Glacier is best experienced without hurry or stress, the economics of vacation travel make it necessary for visitors to maximize their time in the park.

The Best of Glacier National Park highlights, as Leftridge puts it, the park’s “iconic features.” The book begins with an overview of park facts, geology, and cultural history. This is followed by twenty-six “best of” chapters describing everything from scenic drives, picnic areas and nature trails to wild flowers, birds and photography opportunities.

Each chapter includes a map, color photographs and clearly marked headings and subheadings that make the information easy to find. This book is meant to be used as a quick and easy reference whether you are stopped at an overlook on the Going-to-the-Sun Road or standing in a subalpine fir forest on the Swiftcurrent Nature Trail. The hiking sections, which are broken down into nature trails, day hikes and backpack trips, include directions and special features you’ll want to see and photograph.

Glacier’s rangers, naturalists, boat crews and saddle tour operators are probably asked more questions about the park’s flora and fauna than anything else. The “Best Wildlife” chapter includes a mammal checklist and tells you where to find marmots, deer, elk, bighorn sheep, moose and bears. The book includes appropriate warnings about Grizzly bears, suggesting that they be observed at a distance. “Best Birds” highlights ospreys, eagles and ptarmigans, among others.

Naturally, “Best Wildflowers” begins with beargrass. Leftridge notes that “It is a myth that bears rely on this lily to satisfy their diet. If you see beargrass’ tall stalks with missing flower heads, know that other animals, including rodents, elk and bighorn sheep, nibbled here.”

According to the National Park Service, there are 1,400 plant species in Glacier. While “best” is a subjective term, this guidebook focuses on such popular and showy wildflowers as the Glacier Lily, Indian Paintbrush, Lupine and other visitor favorites.

Naturalist John Muir said Glacier National Park includes the “the best care-killing scenery on the continent” and suggested that visitors  “Give a month at least to this precious reserve. The time will not be taken from the sum of your life. Instead…it will make you truly immortal.”

Whether you have a month, a week or a only few days for the high country known as the Crown of the Continent, The Best of Glacier National Park is an excellent all-purpose, general guidebook for discovering everything to do and see when faced with thirty-seven named glaciers, 175 mountains, and 151 maintained trails of waiting memories.


TSScover2014A former Many Glacier Hotel summer employee, Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of nonfiction and fiction with a Glacier Park focus, including Bears; Where They Fought: Life in Glacier Park’s Swiftcurrent Valley and three contemporary fantasy novels set in the park, “Sarabande,” “The Seeker” and “The Sun Singer.”