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Must-read Adventure Book: Before They're Gone | OARS

Now, between us, we had five kids under five. Old Faithful did erupt. That was no surprise: it does so about 20 times a day, at fairly regular intervals. But what we did not anticipate was the reaction of our children. Blast from the past: A decade ago, Michael Lanza's young kids and their friends witnessed the eruption of Old Faithful for the first time.

They stared wide-eyed at the scalding water blasting into the oceanic Wyoming sky—and all of them burst out laughing. It was the joyous, doubled-over, shrieking, unrestrained glee of little kids, and it was infectious. That experience began a gradual transformation—or perhaps maturation—of how I see our national parks. As a young adult, I viewed it through the same focused lens that I would later turn on the landscapes I visited in the West: I saw these places as natural playgrounds for my outdoor adventures, there for me—and people like me—to enjoy.

But for me, the park system is also the thread that sews together some of the most wonderful moments my family has ever had. My kids are older now, and it takes more than a geyser to stir their emotional magma. As for me: yes, I still turn to the national parks for intense backcountry adventures, just as I did before I was a parent.

But today I look at the parks through a wider lens. Best of all, I view the parks through the eyes of my kids—and reconnect with a sense of wonder. All donations are tax deductible to the extent provided by law. Skip to main content. How we work Blog Media room Magazine Support us.

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As the national parks turn , a visitor grows up, too. But not to our children. Land protection. You might also be interested in:. October 14, In New Hampshire, forest conservation pays for itself—and then some. There are a few reasons Bill Freedman likes fishing the Androscoggin River this time of year.

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Read more. September 21, If we had the option, we would dive without further contemplation into a claustrophobic burrow and cower for a long time. But we have no burrow. And the bears are just four or five steps off the trail we have to descend.

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  6. As any backpacker or armchair adventurer understands, this represents the worst possible circumstance. A grizzly bear alone might normally flee from the sounds and odors of humans, probably before the people even realized a bear lurked nearby. But other than a polar bear, a griz sow with cubs is arguably the most fearsome, ferocious terrestrial beast in the Americas. She may perceive any sizable creature in her vicinity as a threat to her babies.

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    Every two or three years in the western U. In July , a sow with cubs killed a yearold man hiking with his wife in Yellowstone. So we wait, hoping the bears will move on. There is no wind; they may not smell us. They disappear into the woods, but we periodically hear their growls, too close to the trail for us to consider venturing down there. An hour drips by like candle wax.

    Three other hikers, two men and a woman, come along, heading in our direction. After a brief, lively huddle, we agree on a plan: we will walk in close formation down the trail, making abundant noise. Bears, according to conventional thinking, will not engage this large a group of people. But apparently, these grizzlies did not read the rulebook. While we were strategizing how to outwit them with our superior intellects, they had pulled off a perfect flanking maneuver.

    From this close, we see her shoulder muscles rippling, the fur backlit by sunlight, and razor teeth designed for tearing through flesh as her mouth gapes open. Then she sniffs the air and swings her head to stare directly at us.

    If there is a national park that seems created to fulfill the grandest dreams of backpackers, it is Glacier. Straddling the Continental Divide hard against the Canadian border, the northernmost U. Rockies resemble a collection of mountain-scale kitchen implements--meat-cleaver wedges of billionyear- old rock and stone knives lined up in rows that stretch for miles, everything standing with blades pointed upward.

    More than a hundred of them rise above eight thousand feet, the highest exceeding ten thousand feet. Streams collect the runoff from fields of melting snow and ice, pouring down mountainsides, shouting loudest when crashing over innumerable cascades and waterfalls. Geological strata stripe mountainsides in parallel bands.

    Wildflowers in a palette of colors dapple vast, treeless tundra plateaus. Swiss-born paleontologist Louis Agassiz, hailed as one of the greatest scientists of his time, comprehended the origins of places like the future Glacier National Park.

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    In the s, he theorized that an ice age had once locked up much of the planet. Today, a glacier in the north of this park is named for him.


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    Glacier is among just a few U. Only two are missing: the bison and woodland caribou. Sixty-two mammal species live here, and kinds of birds are seen. Glacier and neighboring Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada have been designated an international peace park, an international biosphere reserve, and a World Heritage Site.

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    7. Many backpackers go home with breathless tales of walking past that most regal of creatures, the bighorn sheep. Some--like my friend Geoff Sears when we took a trip here together--tell of leaving a sweaty T-shirt hanging outside to dry overnight, only to discover it even more soaked in the morning because deer have gummed it for the salt from perspiration.