Aug 14, 2016


An American Treasure
by Kenneth Brower

Of all the National Geographic books I have, this one was the best. The writing is great. It's not as much about wildlife, but what there is of course I loved. Intriguing little snippets that throw exquisite details at me in a few sentences and make me want to go read more right away- for example about how gophers' winter snow leave soil deposits behind that in the spring look like giant worm castings- or so the author imagined as a child. He grew up in the park, his family having been closely tied to it for several generations. His great-grandfather was a contemporary of John Muir and in fact actively opposed Muir on many things, which gives lots of interesting insights into park management here.

There are details on all kinds of things. The history of geological formations- including early mistaken concepts about how they came to be. Controversies and different theologies on how wildlife should be managed in the park. Concerns over human use and the impacts of things like roads, campgrounds and the like. Issues from early decades, including sheepherding. How trails are designed and cut into the rock- the artistry (or lack) of them. Moutainclimbing, of course. Tree blazing, why it was done and what it indicates. Studies of fauna and flora- lichens, wildflowers, giant sequoias. I didn't realize there were so many various microclimates in Yosemite, that's part of what makes this place amazing. It's also about people. John Muir- lots about him. He was such a key figure in the early park's development. There's a close portrait of a Native American woman who learned the art of basketweaving, which plant fibers she gathers in the park, the reasons for their particular uses. Ansel Adams!! I loved that there was a whole chapter about artists who have visited the park, and what they created.

I think it's rather sad I could not find a single other review of this book online. Not on LibraryThing, or even Amzn. It's a book well worth reading. The pictures are stunning.

Rating: 4/5      200 pages, 1990


bermudaonion said...

I would love to go to Yosemite. This sounds terrific!

Jeane said...

I have only been myself once, a day spent hiking w/friends in college. I'd love to go back. There is so much I didn't see.

booksnpeaches said...

This sounds fascinating, with the author's family history with the park and debates about management.