This summer I took up hiking. I’ve been interested in exploring since the moment I was born and formally interested in hiking since I read Wild by Cheryl Strayed many years ago. Portage Arch in Indiana is a great place for beginners because you feel like you are actually hiking and the view is breathtaking even though you actually only travel .8 miles! Who knew such beauty lived among cornfields?
I also visited Turkey Run with my neighbor/co-worker on the eve of the first day of school. Now THAT was hiking. We went on a 2 mile “rugged/moderate” trail and climbed over all sorts of crazy things in the middle of a creek. I was scared to death yet loved it ever so much more because of conquering that fear and finishing the hike. One step at a time I made it. The hike made me want to start visiting national parks, but until I save up I will have to read about them!
Engineering Eden by Jordan Fisher Smith. This book was given to me for review by Blogging for Books. True crime meets a national park. The year is 1972 and the setting is Yellowstone. Harry Walker, tired of working on his family’s farm desires freedom and leaves town. Without a plan of where to go he ends up camping at Yellowstone where his body is later found. Organs appeared to have been clawed out of his body and his larynx crushed from an apparent bite. Harry’s mourning family decides to sue the government because without Harry to help on their farm, they cannot stay in business.
This book tells the story of the court case as well as countless, more interesting, stories of human meets bear. The book centers around the question of balance regarding people and nature. National parks are designed to protect nature and animals, they are also a popular vacation destination. People need to be kept safe while visiting but nature also needs to b protected from humans. In 2015, over 307 million people visited national parks and I’d expect that number is even higher in 2016, the National Park Service’s 100th birthday. When one visits a National Park, they are not in a zoo, but in the wild with animals and frequently, with bears.
My favorite part of this book was the individual stories of attacks. There was one particularly horrible situation involving friends camping when they saw a bear. Everyone ran to climb up trees except for this one girl who yelled that she couldn’t run because the bear was clawing at the zipper on her tent. Then she screamed that he was biting her arm. A minute later she cried that her arm was gone and even told her friends she was dead. The bear carried her away and when her friends finally got help, remains were found in her sleeping bag far away from her tent. She could not be identified as a female based on the mess that lay inside her sleeping bag.
Overall, I loved the individual stories of bear encounters, but the structure of the book was a bit confusing. It jumped between the court case, history of the National Parks, and bear stories without any apparent logic or predictability. I rated this book 3.5 stars, but it would have been higher if it had been organized a bit differently. If you want some good bear stories, it’s the book for you!
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. – John Muir