Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park in Nevada is a park in the middle of nowhere that not many people have actually heard of it. Of course, I make it my business to know about such parks, so when I was planning a huge National Park trip to neighboring Utah, I included Great Basin. Utah and parts of neighboring states has the greatest concentration of National Parks in the country. By traveling in a loop, you can visit Great Basin in Nevada, Zion and Bryce Canyon in Utah, Grand Canyon (North Rim) in Arizona, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands in Utah, and Mesa Verde in Colorado. I took this trip in the fall of 1998 over a two-week period. Two weeks was enough to see quite a bit in each park, but three weeks would have been much better. I flew into Salt Lake City and started the loop in a counterclockwise direction, hitting Great Basin first and the other parks in the order indicated above. I will talk about Great Basin National Park in this post, followed by the other parks in subsequent posts.

As with many national parks, the part accessible by road is only a small portion of the park. As you would expect, that part of the park has many things to see. Wheeler Peak, at 13,063 feet (3,982 m), is the second highest point in Nevada, and the road goes up to the 10,160 foot level. At that point, the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail begins ascending 2,900 feet (890 m) to the top on an 8.6 mile (14 km) round trip hike. The hike is a fairly steady climb. As is often the case on a mountain hike, there is a point where you think you are near the top, but it turns out to be just a brief leveling off. As you approach the “top,” the rest of the mountain appears, looming over you. My own name for that point on Wheeler Peak is You-gotta-be-kidding-me Ridge. Well, actually I did not use the word “kidding” at the time. Though it does take work to get to the top, the hike is relatively easy, not counting the normal gasping for breath. The payoff is the view of other mountains, lakes, valleys, and clouds. Because of the relative lack of surrounding scenery, the view is not as grand as at Yosemite or Glacier, but a plain old mountaintop view is still better than almost any other view. Being a bit younger at the time, I didn’t mind dragging my heavy tripod with me, and I took my favorite photo of myself at the top of Wheeler Peak.

The bad thing about being at the top of a mountain is that you need to walk back down. The inexperienced might think that the climb up is harder than the climb down, but I usually find it to be the opposite. While the climb up is difficult, the difficulty consists merely of tired legs and gasping for breath. The difficulty going down is the constant abuse of your knees and the danger of falling. The Wheeler Peak trail is very rocky. The rocks are somewhat smooth and about 6 inches to a foot in length. This makes for very treacherous footing and brutal abuse of the knees. My knees survived fine, but now with older knees I would use trekking poles on the downhill journey.

As great as the Wheeler Peak hike was, the highlight of the park for me was the Bristlecone Pine Trail. I am a tree lover and borderline tree-hugger. To stand next to a 3,000 year old tree was a highlight of my life and a privilege for which I will be forever grateful. There are even older trees in the Inyo National Forest in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California (Methuselah is almost 5,000 years old), but this was good enough for me. I was disappointed to learn on a recent trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden that bristlecone pines in the United States are no longer the oldest known trees in the world. There is a Norway spruce in Sweden that is 9,550 years old.

Near the Wheeler Peak and Bristlecone Pine Trails is the Alpine Lakes Loop. This is a nice hike past Stella and Teresa Lakes.

Finally, Great Basin National Park has a cave. Indeed, the original name of the park was Lehman Caves National Monument. I remember that I enjoyed the cave trip, as I always do, but truthfully I do not remember anything about the cave. If you have seen Mammoth Cave or Carlsbad Cavern, there is little need to see Lehman Cave. Of course, if you are there anyway, why not?

Though Great Basin National Park does not have the spectacular scenery of the nearby Utah parks, it is definitely worth a visit, especially for the bristlecone pines. Moreover, Wheeler Peak is probably one of the easiest 13,000 footers. The facilities near the park are rather limited, befitting a park that is in the middle of nowhere. The nearby town of Baker has one motel with seven units and a restaurant or two. It is (or at least was in 1998) refreshingly devoid of the circus-like atmosphere present in many National Park gateway towns.

My visit: September 1998

Sunday, April 17, 2011

New National Park Books

I recently purchased two new National Park books. The first one is Fodor's The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West, which is the second edition of my favorite general National Park guidebook. This new edition has some differences from the first edition, with the disadvantages outweighing the advantages. The photos and maps in the new edition are all in color, which is nice but really rather unnecessary. I got a big kick out of the straight-out-of-the-60s "In Full Color" on the cover. I do like the new feature on how geysers and other thermal features work. Unfortunately, the book is noticeably thicker and heavier than the first edition, which is a big disadvantage if you want to take it along with you. The pages are also stiffer, which makes it harder to flip through. In summary, the new edition is nicer if you are sitting in your La-Z-Boy dreaming about the parks, but not as useful as a book to take along with you.

The other new book is National Geographic's The 10 Best of Everything: National Parks. It is not a guidebook, but rather a book to bring with you to the aforementioned La-Z-Boy. I have not had a chance to read it yet, but flipping through it shows that it is pretty much what you would expect from the title. It looks like it will be a good read. The book is arranged into nine categories: Natural Wonders; By Land; By Sea, Lake, and River; Seasonal Enjoyment; Wildlife; Learning Experiences; Discovering History; Sleeping and Eating; and Other Wonders. Each of these sections has anywhere from 4 to 16 subsections, each with the 10 best. Examples under Natural Wonders include Landmarks, Waterfalls, Caves, and Glaciers. Examples under By Land include Day Hikes, Walk-up Summits, Canyon Hikes, and Day Hikes with a Twist. The authors also supply lists of their own favorite National Parks. Looking at the book as I write this makes me want to abandon the book I am currently reading (China Watcher: Confessions of a Peking Tom by Richard Baum) and start on this one right away!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Reading Odyssa

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT) has been the subject of many books recounting peoples' experiences on the trail. About a year ago, I talked about the excellent books, Southbound and Walking Home, by the Barefoot Sisters (jackrabbit and Isis). I have read several others since then, some good, some just okay. I have not had the urge to write about one of them until now.  

Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail by Jennifer Pharr Davis (Odyssa) is the best AT book I have read since the Barefoot Sisters and is one of the best books of any kind I have read lately. Content-wise, I'll still go with the sisters. Their books are much longer and more detailed. However, in two other important ways Odyssa has the sisters beat. First, her writing is excellent, the best writing I have seen in an AT book and excellent writing by any standard. Her words are a pleasure to read. Second, and more importantly, her writing put me in her head better than any other AT book author. Her various comments and observations allowed me to relate to her. I never felt that I was simply observing someone's hike. Many reviews made a big deal about her being a woman. However, I found the book to be about a person hiking the AT, interesting to anyone who enjoys such books.

Every once in a while I run across a phrase or idea in a book that makes me sit there for a few minutes saying "Wow." There was one such passage in Becoming Odyssa (italics mine): "I spent one full afternoon on the rocks of Clarendon Gorge talking with the locals who had retreated to the cool rapids of Mill River to escape the summer heat. They shared their food and their stories with me. And as I sat and listened to them talk about interests ranging from car parts to pottery and football to farming, it struck me that every person I had ever met and would ever meet knew something I didn’t and could do something I couldn’t. It was a simple truth, but I finally realized that the more people I invested in, the smarter and better equipped I would be."

I highly recommend this book. Don't wait for it to come out in paperback. Get it now.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Glacier National Park - The Second Visit

Glacier National Park in Montana is my favorite National Park. Its beauty is almost indescribable, and the hiking is superb. As I was leaving the park during my first visit in 2007, I was already making plans to return. I made good on those plans this past September.

This time I flew into Calgary, which is about 200 miles from the park. This presented a bit of a dilemma during the planning stage, as Calgary is only about 80 miles from Banff National Park, which I had never visited. I resisted the urge of mission creep and made my plans for Glacier. After picking up my rental car and stopping at Safeway to get some groceries for the week's breakfast and lunch, I drove to Glacier. The weather was rather gray and rainy, and unfortunately this would be true for most of the trip. My destination for the night was the Rising Sun Motor Inn, a few miles into the park on the St. Mary side. This was fortunate because they told me at the gate that it was snowing at Logan Pass, and the road was closed there.

On my first visit, at the exact same time of year, the weather was sunny and warm, and I could hike whenever and wherever I pleased. The rainy weather and a snowline of about 7,000 feet would make planning a hike much more difficult this time. I spent quite a bit of time Sunday night deciding what to do tomorrow. As it turned out, this would become a nightly ritual.  I had two main goals on this trip: the Dawson-Pitamakan Loop in the Two Medicine area and the Highline Trail to the Grinnell Glacier overlook. Dawson-Pitamakan tops out at 8,000 feet, and there are knife-edges to traverse, so it looked like I would not be doing that one, at least until later in the week. The Highline Trail begins at Logan Pass and tops out at about 7,000 feet, so waiting a day or so might be good. I decided that I would do the Grinnell Glacier Trail at Many Glacier. I had hiked this trail the last time, and it was one of the best hikes I had ever taken. This 11-mile out-and-back trail tops out at about 6,500 feet.

Early Monday morning I headed to Many Glacier. The weather was generally gray and rainy, but there was a bit of blue sky, and the sunrise on the mountains as I headed into the valley was beautiful. That would be the last time I saw the sun that day. Although I prefer hiking in good weather, the gray clouds and snow gave everything a totally different feel than the last time, and it was beautiful in its own way. I never did see the top of the Garden Wall or the Gem, but the scenery along the trail was magnificent as usual with the snow on the mountains making them look more imposing. I looked for the huge wildflower patch I had seen last time, but it was too cold this year, and they were gone. The last quarter of the trail had some snow along the trail, and there was snow on the trail at the final approach. Upper Grinnell Lake was iced up, so I did not dip my feet in this time. On the return trip I saw a mountain goat close-up. I ate my lunch at the lower elevations near Lake Josephine.

After the hike, I took the Going-to-the-Sun Road across the park to Apgar. By then it was raining, but the wetness brought out the color in the rocks and trees. The snow on the mountains at Logan Pass was beautiful. The visibility across Lake McDonald was poor, but it was still pretty. I decided to return to the east side via US-2, which hugs the park boundary, so I could check out the view from there. There was nothing exciting, but at least it is a faster road the Going-to-the-Sun. I got a big kick out of driving on US-2 in the mountains, since US-2 is the same road that goes across the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan. Once I returned to the St. Mary area, I headed for my favorite non-hiking spot: Two Sisters Café. I had my usual buffalo burger with a big onion on it. They did not have the home-made tortilla chips any more, but the Cajun-spiced fries were a very worthy successor.

I could see the tops of the mountains on Tuesday morning, so I decided that it would be a good day to take the Highline Trail to the Grinnell Glacier overlook, a 15.2-mile out-and-back hike. I did not know about that little side trail on my first visit, but as soon as I found out about it, I put it on my list for next time. I had seen Grinnell Glacier from glacier-level, and I absolutely had to see it from up on the Garden Wall. The Highline Trail sits high up the Garden Wall and in places is a thin shelf on the cliff. In other words, a great trail for views. As I walked along the trail, Heavens Peak and the Livingston Range came into view. As the sun rose, it touched the tips of the mountains with its light. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. The trail was mostly clear, but once in a while I had to walk on some snow. This was a test of nerves in some spots, as a fall would have been very long indeed. In addition to the scenery, I saw bighorn sheep and mountain goats.

Eventually, Granite Park Chalet came into view. It reminded me of Switzerland, where they commonly have buildings in the mountains. Soon, I was at the trailhead for the Grinnell Glacier spur. It took me quite a while to hike the 0.6 miles to the overlook, both because of the altitude and because of the snow on the trail. The goal was absolutely worth the work. I could look down at Grinnell Glacier, the Salamander, and Upper Grinnell Lake. I could see the spot where I had been standing the day before. Someone who had hiked from the Chalet took my picture there, and then I ate my lunch. It really was too cold and windy to eat lunch there, but how often would I have a chance to eat in such a spot?

The return trip was interesting both for a bad reason and a good reason. The bad part is that my left knee started hurting on the way down from the overlook. My knee has never bothered me before, but the combination of my age and suddenly demanding that my body traipse up and down mountains was too much. I longed for the days when I was 30 and I could do anything I wanted to my body and its only protest would be sore muscles the next morning. Oh well, I’ll just have to open up my wallet and get some trekking poles. I continued the hike at a slower pace.

The exciting thing came later down the trail. There was a curve up ahead and some hikers coming towards me mentioned grizzly bears that were on the trail but had moved off. I put my senses on high alert and continued. I rounded the curve and saw…nothing. Of course I had to relay the news to the next hiker coming towards me, and as we were talking he spotted three grizzlies below the trail. I snapped a picture and moved on. As I explained to my fellow hiker, my policy around dangerous animals is take a quick shot and get the heck out of there. At least this one came out better than my blurry rattlesnake at Kings Canyon National Park. The rest of the hike was uneventful, and it started raining as I was approaching the parking lot. I got in my car and it started really raining. I did a little weather victory dance as best I could while strapped into the driver's seat and then headed to Two Sisters.

Tuesday evening was the time to plan for Wednesday’s hiking. This was the biggest planning challenge I have ever had. The weather showed no sign of getting better. I was at a mountain park, but I had to take a low trail because of the snow and a level trail because of my knee. I had several hiking guidebooks to help me, and I did indeed find such trails. This was the classic blessing in disguise. I ended up taking great trails that I would have ignored under better conditions.

Wednesday morning started gray again, but at least I could see the tops of the mountains. This would turn out to be the best weather day, with some actual blue sky scattered throughout the day. My first hike was to Grinnell Lake, a 6.8-mile out-and-back hike. I had seen Grinnell Lake several times from high above, but this time I would see it from lake level. I would also be able to see Grinnell Falls from below.

The trail begins in the parking lot of the Many Glacier Hotel and passes Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine before ending at Grinnell Lake. The trail was quite muddy, but also quite level. The weather may have made for bad hiking, but it made for great photographs. It doesn’t get much better than blue sky with wisps of clouds among the mountains. It was a beautiful hike. The exciting thing on the trail besides the spectacular scenery was the bridge crossing a small creek not too far from Grinnell Lake. It was made of wood planks and was suspended with rather thin steel cables. Every step sent the bridge violently bouncing. I’m scared of pretty much nothing, but crossing that bridge was something I was not looking forward to repeating on the return trip. After spending some time and having a snack at the lake, I returned to the trailhead. I had lunch at a picnic table at a nearby picnic area.

My next hike of the day was Beaver Pond, a 3.4-mile loop very near the St. Mary entrance.  It was a nice enough hike through the woods and along St. Mary Lake, but not really Glacier-quality.  After dinner at Two Sisters I hiked to St. Mary Falls, a 1.6-mile out-and-back hike. St. Mary Falls is my favorite in the park. On the way down, I saw a deer right on the trail, and ran into her again on the way back.

Thursday was a rainy day, and my hike would be the 7.2-mile Two Medicine Lake Loop. I headed towards Two Medicine hoping that the rain would stop. The rain and fog on the thin and winding SR-49 was quite enough excitement for the day. As I pulled into the parking lot at Two Medicine Lake, the rain had pretty much stopped. I started my hike in a clockwise direction. The trail was quite pleasant, with several clearings and ponds beside it for the first mile or so. At that point, it became a nice walk in the woods with an occasional glimpse of the lake. I could not see too many mountains with the low clouds, but once in a while I could see craggy peaks poking through the mist, much like an ancient Chinese painting. I had to cross another one of those shaky bridges, but this was a loop so I would not have to do it again.

It was on this trail that I found out what unpleasant hiking really is. At the far end of the loop, the views of the lake open up. There are blueberry or some such shrubs along the trail. Although it wasn’t raining at the time, the shrubs were wet, and before long my pants and boots were soaked. Soon, the only sound I heard was squish, squish, squish. Then it started raining. And it was cold. I switched to my Seattle Sombrero and put on my gloves. At the side trail to the boat dock, I sat down and wrung out my socks. On many hikes, once you reach the big scenic destination all that is left is the trudge back to the car. After the highlight of the beautiful lake view, there was a long cold and wet trudge. Complaining is fun, but seriously in all my years of hiking this was the first time I had to hike in such conditions. I consider myself lucky.  My mother would say that it builds character.

I survived the hike and ate my lunch in my car. After lunch, I headed to Browning to check out the Museum of the Plains Indian. This was not the most impressive museum, but there was a display of formal and ceremonial clothing that was impressive indeed. Even more impressive was my dinner at Two Sisters.

Friday was my last day, and I decided to stop at Waterton Lakes National Park on my way back to Calgary. There was a bit of sun in the morning, and this time I was able to see Chief Mountain, which was shrouded in fog on my previous visit. Although it was early September, the light, the trees, and the air all had a pleasant autumn feeling. It was a nice drive to the border crossing. Once at Waterton, I drove the Akimina Parkway to Cameron Lake and hiked the 2.2-mile out-and-back Cameron Lake Trail. The weather was not so nice any more. I ate my lunch at the end of the trail. Then I drove the Red Rock Parkway with the intention of seeing Blakiston Falls. It started raining, and this time I had had enough. I turned around and headed to Calgary.

Though there is a bit of complaining in this post, I certainly enjoyed my visit. In fact, this visit cemented Glacier in place as my favorite National Park. There is often great beauty in bad weather. Also, I was able to see Glacier under totally different conditions than in my previous trip. Snow makes mountains more imposing. Wetness brings out color. Gray skies completely change the feel of a place. Given the choice, I would have asked for warm sunny weather, but I have now been privileged to see different faces of Glacier National Park. Its awesome beauty shines through in any condition.

My visits: September 2007, September 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My New Favorite National Park

For years, I've been hesitating when asked to name my favorite National Park. I usually name three: Yellowstone, Olympic, and Glacier. No longer. After my recent second trip to Glacier, I can now say that my favorite is Glacier National Park. It is without a doubt the greatest hiking park, but what really tips the scale is its sheer beauty. Spectacularly beautiful, breathtakingly beautiful, heartbreakingly beautiful; I'm not sure we really have a strong enough adjective. The weather pretty much sucked the whole time I was there; it didn't matter. The rain just brought out the colors and the snow tipped the mountains in white. My knee started bothering me, so I had to limit myself to fairly level trails (a real challenge in Glacier); it didn't matter. I took some beautiful trails that I would not otherwise have taken. There is simply no other US National Park like Glacier, and it is my new favorite. My next post will have detailed information about my recent trip. There are photos posted on Flickr.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park in Arizona is divided into two districts separated by the city of Tucson. To the west is the Tucson Mountain District, which has a desert environment. To the east is the Rincon Mountain District, which has both desert and mountain environments complete with pine trees at the higher elevations.

Saguaro is one of my favorite national parks. It does not have the grand scenery of my other favorites, such as Glacier, but it certainly has its charms. There are several reasons why I like it so much. First, the saguaro cacti are just so darn cool. I had seen these for my whole life on TV, both in cartoons and live action, and it was a thrill to see them in person. They are truly impressive plants. Second, Saguaro was my first National Park, though it was a National Monument at the time, and there is always a certain fondness for your first. On top of that, my first visit was also the first time I had been in the desert. The desert is so different from the trees and water of my home state of Michigan, and it is utterly fascinating. Third, it never seems crowded. Finally, I have been there more times than any other National Park. (I have been to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore more.) I know the Tucson Mountain District quite well. This familiarity engenders a connection that I do not have with any other National Park. It seems like my own special place.

My visits to Saguaro National Park always include the Tucson Mountain District, so I will begin there. I usually take Speedway Boulevard from Tucson. Speedway eventually turns into Gates Pass Road, which twists and turns over the Tucson Mountains. That is why I like driving it. It ends at Kinney Road, which goes into the park. Starting roughly at Gates Pass, you are driving through Tucson Mountain Park, a Pima County park. Not too far before the Red Hills Visitor Center in Saguaro National Park is the entrance to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, an excellent combination of zoo, natural history museum, and botanical garden. It is definitely worth taking some time from your hiking itinerary to visit.

More or less across from the zoo entrance is the trailhead for the King Canyon Trail. I usually have to drive back and forth a few times before finding it. This is the start for my favorite hike in the park, to Wasson Peak. My usual route is to take the King Canyon Trail to the Hugh Norris Trail to the Wasson Peak spur and then back the way I came for a seven-mile round trip. Last time I tried something different. After rejoining the Hugh Norris Trail I continued to the Sendero Esperanza Trail and took that trail back to the King Canyon Trail for an eight-mile round trip. I do not recommend one route over the other – it depends on whether you want a loop or an out-and-back hike. No matter which way you choose, it is one of the easier mountain hikes I have taken, similar to Ryan Mountain at Joshua Tree National Park. The views from the trail and the top are great, and as an extra bonus you can see the Kitt Peak Observatory from the top.

Wasson Peak is my favorite hike at Saguaro National Park both because it is simply a good hike and also for personal reasons. The first time I visited Saguaro was in 1990, when I was in Tucson for a conference. Of course, I had to go see the saguaros. I saw them and was happy, but then I heard about the hike to the top of Wasson Peak. Wasson Peak is only 4687 ft (1428 m) high, so it was an extremely attractive destination. I found the trailhead and started walking up King Canyon. Even though I was an inexperienced hiker at the time, I soon realized that I was ill-prepared to do the hike. I had no hiking boots, no hat, and no water. Any hiker will tell you that the most difficult thing to do psychologically is to turn back before reaching your destination. What really helped me was imagining the headlines in the newspaper the next day: “Conventioneer found dead in Saguaro National Monument.” It would be especially bad since I was a scientist, a presumably smart person. I turned back. As you might expect, it bugged the heck out of me that I did not do the hike, but I managed to push it to the back of my mind and avoid therapy. In 1994 I was not able to do the hike because of time limitations, but in 1997 I finally made it to the top of Wasson Peak, wearing hiking boots, a hat, and carrying water (and probably a granola bar).

Moving our story back to Kinney Road, the first site that you can find without driving back and forth is the Red Hills Visitor Center, a nice new yet tasteful visitor center. I seem to recall that they opened it soon after receiving their promotion to a National Park in 1994. As usual, there is a short nature trail behind the building. Continuing west on Kinney Road gets you to the Desert Discovery Trail, a short nature trail. Next is the driving highlight of the Tucson Mountain District, the six-mile Bajada Loop Drive. The road is unpaved, but usually in pretty good condition. This is where you can get your saguaro cactus fix. Along the road is the short (0.4 mile) but good Valley View Overlook Trail. You walk across a wash and then up a hill to a nice view of the Avra Valley. Also along the scenic loop is the Signal Hill picnic area. A short trail from there leads up the hill to some Indian petroglyphs and a fine view of hills and saguaros. It is a view that you will often see in photographs.

The Rincon Mountain District is not as fun to drive to as the Tucson Mountain District, but once you are there it is just as fun. The Rincon Mountain Visitor Center is near the entrance. From there you can take the eight-mile Cactus Forest Drive. This drive is nicer than the Bajada Loop in that it is paved. Again, you can satisfy your saguaro cactus craving here. Off of the road is a short nature trail, the Desert Ecology Trail.  Later, the side road to the Javelina Picnic Area leads to the Freeman Homestead Trail, a nice one-mile loop past a huge saguaro, through a wash, and past the site of an old house.

At the end of the side road is the trailhead for the Tanque Verde Ridge Trail. This is the big trail at Saguaro National Park, and it leads to an extensive network of trails in the Rincon Mountains.  It climbs for 6.9 miles to the 7049-foot (2148 m) Tanque Verde Peak and then beyond to other trails to the even higher Mica Mountain and Rincon Peak. At these altitudes, you are no longer in the desert but rather pine forest. I’m sorry to say that I have not hiked in this area, but hiking to Tanque Verde Peak is on my list for the next time if I can tear myself away from all the other things to do in Tucson.

My visits: May 1990, October 1994, May 1997, June 2000, April 2002, December 2006, May 2012

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Shaping the System

When I was writing my last post on Point Reyes National Seashore, I was thinking it may have been the first National Seashore, which would have been interesting to point out. To find the answer to this question, I consulted my copy of The National Parks: Shaping the System. It turns out that it was the second, two years after Cape Cod. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which I mentioned in the post, was indeed the first National Lakeshore.

I love this little book. As you might expect from the title, it is devoted to telling us when each park was added to the system, both in narrative and tabular form. It is interesting reading for a National Park buff like me, and it is an excellent reference book. One especially interesting entry, on the back cover, is the history of the NPS arrowhead logo over the years. If you would like a copy of the book for yourself, you can order it from the US Government Bookstore for $12.50 or you can access a PDF version at the National Park Service web site.