Book Recollection: Lost in My Own Backyard

It’s all about the reading output this month!  Still kicking myself for a pretty poor performance on last year’s reading stack.  Normally I would be optimistic about going into the new year, but this holiday (and birthday) season brought some great additions to the stack. So, this year I’m being a little more conservative and hoping to get through at least one book a month and then crank through three or four during vacations.  That is actually a great lead into this book recollection post.  The recent trip out to Yellowstone has rekindled my fondness for all things Yellowstone.  I must give Amazon some credit here because they recommended Tim Cahill’s Lost in My Own Backyard based on all the related purchases I had over Christmas.  At some point it went on my Wish List and sure enough Linda came through for my birthday.

When the wrapping paper was removed I was first a little shocked (for reasons which will be explained below) but quickly turned to anticipation to getting some time to start in on it.  It definitely had the feel of Bill Bryson’s Walk in the Woods which I thoroughly enjoyed, but unlike the Appalachian Trail I am actually pretty familiar with our (and later learned the world’s) first National Park.  One excellent feature Tim provides is a map of Yellowstone printed on the hardbound front and back cover of the book.  Whenever he referenced an unfamiliar place it was a simple task to flip to the closest cover and look it up.  The concept of the book is various experiences and thoughts Tim has encountered during his numerous hikes in the park.  Tom Murphy was his companion on some of these adventures.   I am familiar with him being a well known Yellowstone Park photographer … double bonus!  Tim’s book is divided up into small chapters/topics perfect for reading before hitting the sack (as mentioned in a previous post, it is much easier when you do not have to carry plots and topics across multiple days – getting older means the mind is wandering more and more).  Based on his highly entertaining (and quite humorous) descriptions of sights and experiences on his back country jaunts I’m getting the bug to take some longer hikes the next time we get out there.   Of course, now I am much more likely to stop off and pick up a can of bear spray!  It would also be prudent if I could find a nurse to go with us (as Tim was lucky enough to do) in case something bad happens.  One thing for certain, I will not be publishing a book which describes how to get to or has the audacity to give names to the natural features that I discover- there is some serious angst directed toward the authors of a Yellowstone waterfalls book (which Linda owns and really likes).   I also now want to capture the moonbows (night rainbows) Tim experienced (and learned about from Tom Murphy) on one of his hikes.

In summary, I thought this was a great read and would recommend it to anyone that likes to spend time in the woods.  It is written in a very comfortable style and should bring a few smiles (if not all out laughs) during the course of the read.  Unfortunately, there was one downside I need to share.  Remember when I mentioned there was some initial shock at first sight.  The reason for that is … hit the jump to find out why along with my takeaways (what a tease)

Sorry, sorry, but I didn’t want to take away from all the good points of the book since surely you would have scrolled down to see the pictures before reading the blog text (come on, you know I’m right).  Anyway, the book is veeeerrrrry small!  Using the handiest unit of measure I could find…

If you are planning on heading to Yellowstone, pick this book up to pass the time away on the trek out there!

The takeaways:

  • References the Death in Yellowstone book which Linda has read (along with Death in the Grand Canyon.. seeing a theme here?)  – He also references Bill Bryson one of my favorite authors!
  • Tim believes the trails make us feel alive because it affirms our mortality
  • For those that don’t know, Yellowstone was the first National Park – established 3/1/72 by President Grant (Tim actually claims this one was the first NP in the world – did not know that)
  • Sounds like a hike up Mount Washburn would be quite rewarding.  Might need to prepare a little since it is a rise of 1400 ft above Dunraven Pass, but a 10,243 summit view would be worth hauling the cameras – interesting tidbit, Tim tells us that Model-Ts had to go up this slope in reverse due to not having fuel pumps
  • There is glassed in fire lookout at the top of Mt. Washburn which is named after General Henry Washburn who confirmed the original rumors surrounding the unique features found in Yellowstone.
  • Yellowstone is the largest active supervolcano on earth (there have been at least three deadly eruptions  .. if one was to happen today of this size.. civilization ends) and pretty much negate all the Globull Warming hysteria
  • Like me, Tim is very annoyed by tourists with their pocket cameras approaching 1,000+ pound bison for that perfect little Facebook picture
  • Yellowstone ecosystem encompasses almost 44,000 square miles
  • You are never too old to smile at mud pot farts
  • Sounds like the Monument Geyser Basin is a pretty tough hike – including a 640 foot climb in a half mile.. but you can’t say you weren’t warned based on the multiple signs at the trailhead.
  • He actually indicted that climbing a tree is a potential escape from a Grizzly – I had no idea that Grizzly’s were not great climbers .. of course they could probably just knock the tree down if they wanted to.
  • Sometimes Moose can be seen in the Gibbon Meadows and bears frequent Grebe Lake
  • I liked his analogy of the Sandhill Crane call to a “loon on amphetamines.. or an Arab woman at war”
  • Ice Lake is actually wheelchair accessible
  • The North Rim Trail crosses the Cascade Creek via wooden bridge – there is a 70′ waterfall there which doesn’t get a lot of attention
  • The 328 metal step descent to bottom of Uncle Tom’s Trail is not for the unhealthy
  • After wolf reintroduction some coyotes tried to stand their ground at a kill – these coyotes are now simply referred to as “dead”
  • Specimen Ridge is actually full of petrified trees
  • Those lazy assed bears make the squirrels do the work of taking the nut out of the white-pine cone and then simply go steal their caches
  • There is serious angst against the guys who wrote The Guide to Yellowstone Falls and their Discovery.  It is difficult to determine if it is personal or just the whole concept of the offering, but it is brought up a number of times during the course of the book in snarky snippets on the fact they didn’t really “discover” their hidden falls, but rather the first to write it down – they also thought naming them took away a personal moment reserved for each individual who gazes upon them (note, Linda likes that book a lot)
  • Less than one percent of the Yellowstone visitors actually register for back-country passes (yes, you have to register to do that and are actually assigned overnight camping spots)
  • Fish can actually swim over the Continental Divide – that’s right, a fish with a mission could swim from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean right over the Rocky Mountains
  • Tom apparently likes to back-country hike with an emergency room nurse in the group – smaaaart moooove
  • Grizzly tracks have all the nails forward of the front pad – brown bears not … just in case you happen on some fresh tracks and want to reconsider
  • Poachers usually cry when their caught – I’d rather they just tie ’em to a stake in the ground and poured honey over them
  • Tons of obsidian at top of Parachute Mountain (apparently arrowheads and such from former residents)
  • Ouzel Falls are at the entrance to Bechler River canyon and Yellowstone’s tallest.
  • Tom got to experience moon-rainbows at the waterfalls!
  • Dunanda Falls plunge 150 feet and is 8 miles from the park entrance ranger station
  • Tom recommends the book Day Hiking Yellowstone by Tom Carter
  • and of course he mentions the Yellowstone death scenario of an owner diving into boiling water hole after their pet – this is the same story Linda keeps recounting from her read of the Death in Yellowstone book.

2 thoughts on “Book Recollection: Lost in My Own Backyard”

  1. Sounds like a good book. I may have to borrow it next time I’m in town. I have taken the hike to Mt. Washburn (after completing a 6 mile hike before it…) and the trail can be a bit harrowing if you don’t have a lot of endurance and/or it’s about 95 degrees (which it was the day we did it).

    The trail itself really was a road (as mentioned by the Model T reference) that is in disrepair and broken down to mainly gravel / rocks at this time, so it’s not incredibly steep, but it does pretty much go up hill the entire time (think one area flattens out a bit towards top). So just take your time and enjoy the views on the way. I think my wife and I did it in about 3 1/2 hours (up/down and some time at the top) since we were getting short on daylight.

    Keep your eyes out for picas once near the top and around the rocky parts!

    Oh, and just in case people weren’t aware… it’s illegal to take obsidian (or pretty much anything, to that point) from Yellowstone… so don’t go getting into trouble for that! 🙂


  2. Sounds like that trail would suit me fine – not so sure about Linda but I could find her some waterfalls to entertain her for a couple of hours while I made the trek – would be good training for the half marathon – it will be a little tougher carrying the Beast, but at least I can add the Pica to my list.

    Good point about the obsidian (and other items in the park) – should have mentioned it when I wrote that

    thanks for providing the trail details!


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