BOOK: "Lost in My Own Backyard," by Tim Cahill (Crown Journeys, $16)
TARGET AUDIENCE: Vicarious hikers on the ultimate "walk in the park."
QUICK TAKE: This is not your stereotypical, testosterone-laced outdoors writing. Cahill's slender book on Yellowstone National Park is reflective, even emotional. Having lived near Yellowstone for 25 years, he almost literally can call it his back yard. He knows it well, yet admits that he's still discovering things about the place that early explorers called "Wonderland." And though it pains him to say it, he even loves the over-visited parts he has to share with tourists. There's nothing as funny as hearing thermal mud pots make rude noises.
Cahill talks about the unique geological forces that made, and continue to make, Yellowstone so distinctive from anyplace else on Earth. He describes the tension between coyote and wolf. He teases tourists who foolishly try to get close-ups of buffalo (that's only one of a long list of perils.) He takes us along on trips through Yellowstone's backcountry as well as its more frequented trails, showing us waterfalls, geysers and petrified trees. This is not a guidebook, though, nor is it systematic or thorough. But it is entertaining and sometimes fervent. It's hard not to get caught up in it. As Cahill says, it's our back yard, too.
RANT: Cahill tends to chatty excess at times; one is tempted to give the book a good shake so that the surplusage will rattle loose.
RAVE: Yellowstone is both beautiful and dangerous. "That is why," says Cahill, "walking its trails makes us feel so damn alive."
-- Jerry V. Haines