Michael Lanza Earns National Outdoor Book Award Honor for Book on Family Backpacking
- Category: Dad's Dirt Roads: A Blog
- on Wed Nov 21, 2012
- by Mark Stephens on Wed Nov 21, 2012 - (1) Comments
Of the numerous "adventuring with kids" books out there to be consumed, few of them command little more than casual attention. They'll hit some reasonable, if not obvious, topics like the benefits of getting your children outside. Or what products to buy to keep your spawn comfy. Or how to select an easy hike from a guidebook.
Okay . . . fine, yes. Maybe a little dull.
That's why it's relieving to discover Michael Lanza's narrative, Before They’re Gone: A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks. A scribe by trade, Lanza's craftmanship in the art-science of storytelling rises to the challenge of weaving seemingly disconsonant topics together: family vacation and, uh, climate change.
Yikes. But he did it, and the National Outdoor Book Awards took notice.
Lanza took his family to some of the most fascinating National Parks, where they hiked, kayaked, and skied in the backcountry. Not to torture his kids with lectures about this climate change business or with the effort required of multi-day adventures, but for one of the most universal parenting instincts. "I want my kids to discover what I've found," Lanza reflects, "the satisfying simplicity of moving under your own power, at human velocity, through a place crowded not with people, artificial noise, machines or flashing lights, but with the abundance of nature."
The sad trouble is many of our nation's natural treasures and their abundance of nature will look very different in 30 years thanks to the effects of climate change. So off they went, because no one's guaranteed a tomorrow.
Throughout the book, we're exposed to the many reasons many of us enjoy the outdoors, like taking joy in splendid views and fresh air, and appreciating the elements of adventure like art, history, and the discovery of ourselves and our capabilities when we experience the tough task of, say, getting to the peak of a tall, serious mountain under our own power. But Lanza has also put in untold hours researching the impacts of climate change on these places, getting the collected data and talking with the scientists who have been studying the areas for decades. Lanza put together an adventure memoir with copious amounts of respectable reportage, earning his work a distinguishing honorable mention in the National Book Awards for Outdoor Literature.