Before They’re Gone
A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks
In my National Outdoor Book Award-winning book, Before They’re Gone—A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks, from Beacon Press, I write about spending a year taking wilderness adventures with my wife, Penny, our nine-year-old son, Nate, and our seven-year-old daughter, Alex, in national parks that, because of climate change, are likely to be very different places by the time my kids are my age.
Within often-humorous travel narratives about our backpacking, sea kayaking, rock climbing, cross-country skiing, and canoeing trips in ten parks, I weave the science story about how the warming climate is singularly affecting each park. Based on exhaustive reading of scientific literature and interviews with leading researchers, that more-serious side of my book goes beyond the usual tales of melting glaciers and rising seas to examine the complex interactions of climate, the physical environment, and native flora and fauna. I also contemplate what these changes will mean to future visitors—such as my grown kids, should they someday repeat our adventures.
At this website, you can see my stories, photos, and videos from our family trips for my book in crown jewels of our park system: the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier Bay, Mount Rainier, Olympic, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, Joshua Tree, Yellowstone, and Everglades. (By the way, my kids’ favorite trips for this book were Glacier Bay, Olympic coast, Everglades, Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone.)
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For information about or a review copy of Before They’re Gone—A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks, or to schedule an interview with Michael Lanza, please contact Caitlin Meyer, Publicist, Beacon Press, Boston, (617) 742-2110, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Praise for Before They’re Gone—A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks, by Michael Lanza:
“Before They’re Gone is a beautifully written, moving meditation on the meaning of parenthood, our parks, and the first generation of children to grow up in the age of global warming.”
—Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle and Last Child in the Woods
“Michael Lanza is a skilled wordsmith and his finely fashioned handiwork is on full display in Before They’re Gone. Lanza takes his wife and two young children to some of the country’s most famous National Parks. They hike, sea kayak, climb, canoe and cross-country ski. It’s a heartwarming narrative of a family and their explorations of wild places. It’s also a cautionary story of what might happen, and is happening, to those spectacular places that they visit as the earth continues to warm.”
—National Outdoor Book Awards
“Wilderness adventurers like Lanza are the advance scouts of global warming, bringing back first-hand testimony from pristine landscapes that powerfully corroborates what climate scientists are telling us about our changing planet. But this eyewitness report is much more than an impassioned polemic. It’s that, to be sure, but also an entertaining collection of backcountry anecdotes—surprise encounters with grizzlies, anxious moments on glaciers and wild coastlines, jaw-dropping views from remote summits—that bring climate change to life in a way that’s more palpable and persuasive than any data chart. Above all, Before They’re Gone is a fetching love letter to Mike’s wife, son and daughter, and friends—and to the wild places he treasures as only a hiker, climber, and explorer can.”
—Jonathan Dorn, editor-in-chief, BACKPACKER
“Delightful… a fresh and engaging way to tell the climate change story.”
—Laura Helmuth, Senior Science Editor, Smithsonian magazine
“Blending anecdotes and ecology lessons, Lanza sheds light on his family’s charming dynamic (from his daughter’s sensible suggestion that they depart from bear territory to his son’s preference to attack the brutes), the wonder of the natural world, and the ethical responsibility we all have to mitigate the forces that are changing our planet ‘faster even than scientists or computer models have anticipated.’ This is a terrific blend of adventure (“Seeing a bison gallop thirty miles an hour—as they can—is like seeing a grand piano suddenly sprout horns and charge you with the speed of a horse.”) and ecological forecasting (and forewarning) that aptly conveys the passion of a devoted outdoorsman, and serves as a wake-up call to the state of our planet.”
“Michael Lanza braids a story of family, wilderness, and climate that’s at once heartwarming and terrifying. I envy his kids for the incredible year they spent exploring America’s finest wild places. And I mourn that they—and my own daughter—will have to endure the devastating consequences of our heating planet. Lanza makes abundantly clear that our children deserve better than the legacy we’re leaving them.”
—John Harlin, author, The Eiger Obsession: Facing the Mountain That Killed My Father, and editor, The American Alpine Journal
“Lanza establishes his profoundly compelling narrative strategy of mixing in-the-moment accounts of their demanding hikes and intrepid Nate and Alex’s exuberant pleasure in nature with scientifically based and heart-clenching observations of ‘climatic anarchy.’… ‘Climate change,’ Lanza wisely concludes, ‘forces us to confront our deepest values.’”
“The book is much more than a diary about how places such as Glacier National Park, Everglades National Park, Yellowstone National Park and even Grand Teton National Park are being altered by the changing climate from our normal perceptions of them, though. It is also part primer on natural resources and ecological systems in some of our premier national parks, as well as a story of parents’ love and tutelage of their children… Before They’re Gone carries a strong message.”
—National Parks Traveler
“Lanza is a fine writer and an excellent observer both of nature and of family life, but he expands beyond a family adventure travelogue to chronicle the many ways in which climate change affects the nation’s most extraordinary natural places… a heartbreaking, compelling story.”
—AMC Great Kids, Great Outdoors blog
“In Michael Lanza’s Before They’re Gone… we have the pleasure of joining a seasoned writer on his family’s journey through several national parks, all endangered by the impacts of climate change. His mastery with the language brings us to a deeper level, one where a metaphor places us with him at the toe of a crumbling glacier or a detailed description of geological forces has you overlooking the Grand Canyon with the awe and wonder of a child.”
—The Campsite Blog
“In ten chapters, each one an artful hybrid of environmental reporting and travel memoir dedicated to one unique and irreplaceable place, Before They’re Gone combines feeling and knowledge to moving effect… Lanza adds a bright measure of humanity to an issue often obscured by the language of politics and science.”
“I grew up in a national park, worked in twelve others and have visited well over two hundred of them. Their values, for people like me, often are taken for granted. In this wonderful book, Michael Lanza’s children learn and experience what is most important about our national parks—the necessity to leave them ‘unimpaired for future generations’—and why.”
—Bill Wade, Chair, Executive Council, Coalition of National Park Service Retirees and former superintendent of Shenandoah National Park
“Part family travelogue and part ecological observation… Lanza has opened the doors to this world to his children and readers alike.”
Read an excerpt below from Chapter 6 of Before They’re Gone (place your cursor inside the box below to scroll), watch a video trailer about the book (below excerpt), and view a gallery of photos from all of our trips for this book.
Before They’re Gone, Chapter 6
Media coverage of Before They’re Gone—A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks:
Before They’re Gone wins National Outdoor Book Award.
The Today Show/MSNBC online article and interview.
“Is Yosemite’s Waterfall Disappearing?” at TheAlantic.com.
Interview with John Hockenberry on WNYC/PRI program “The Takeaway.”
Interview with Marcia Franklin on “Dialogue” on Idaho Public Television.
Interview with Anne Strainchamps on Wisconsin Public Radio program “45 North” (scroll down to 7/5/13 episode in Archives)
Interview on “To the Best of Our Knowledge” on Wisconsin Public Radio
Washington Post review.
Chicago Tribune story on hiking with kids.
Op-ed about parks and coastal cities in the Seattle Times.
The Today Show/MSNBC online interview about backpacking with children.
Interview at Grist.org.
Backpacker.com adaptation from the book.
Adaptation from the book in summer 2012 issue of National Parks magazine.
WHYY Radio Times call-in program (NPR affiliate in Philadelphia).
Article at The Climate Reality Project blog.
Article at The Wilderness Society blog.
Interview with Earthfix program on Boise State Public Radio.
Guest appearance and interview on The Green Room, on 94.9 The River in Boise.
Interview on KPOJ AM 620 progressive radio talk show in Portland, Oregon.
Interview on The Azumano Travel Show at AM 860 KPAM in Portland.
Review in the journal Appalachia.
idreambooks.com gives Before They’re Gone a 100% rating.
Idaho Statesman environment story and interview.
Idaho Statesman Outdoor page story on hiking with kids.
Story in the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette.
Review at The Campsite Blog.
Review at the AMC Great Kids, Great Outdoors blog.
10 recommended books of 2012 at the AMC Great Kids, Great Outdoors blog.
Article at the Appalachian Mountain Club website.
Guest post at the L.L. Bean Trail Mix blog.
Article at Random House’s Books For Better Living.
Random House’s Books for Better Living shares my tips on backpacking with young kids.
AAA of Southern California article about national parks.
Article and excerpt at Wenatchee Outdoors.
Beacon Broadside blog asks, “What is today’s most pressing environmental issue?”
Interview at Brian’s Backpacking Blog.
Seattle Backpackers Magazine article on getting kids outdoors.
Essay for Beacon Broadside on anniversary of Thoreau’s death.
Interview with the Family Wilds blog.
Adventure Tykes blog review and interview.
Review at the Go Explore Nature blog.
Interview with the Nature Moms blog.
Adventure Parents blog post about National Outdoor Book Awards.
Interview with the Adventure Parents blog.
Article at the Tales of a Mountain Family blog.
Review at The Joy Trip Project.
Story at the Child Mode blog.
Post at the New Book A Week blog.
Community reviews at Goodreads.com.
Do you enjoy this blog? I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, and I appreciate connecting with my readers. I invite you to subscribe to my blog by entering your email address in the box at the top of the left sidebar or on my About page, and follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter.