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50 Campfires Book Review: Lassoing the Sun

If you decide to read only one book in celebration of the National Parks Service Centennial, “Lassoing the Sun by Mark Woods would be a solid choice.

Lassoing the Sun
Lassoing the Sun

Left only with that endorsement, you will enjoy a pleasant, heart-warming surprise as you turn the pages long into the night, unable to put down the book. While “Lassoing the Sun” is, indeed, a documentary of the last 100 years of America’s national parks, it’s even more a look at what the next 100 years are likely to bring. And on top of that, it’s Woods’ personal story of spending a year visiting National Parks across the country.

What he didn’t know, is that it would be the same year in which his mother was diagnosed with cancer and would pass away. She was the one who instilled in him an appreciation of the outdoors, the National Parks in particular.

Mark Woods is the Metro Columnist for the Florida Times-Union, the daily newspaper in Jacksonville, Florida. On the eve of turning 50, he felt burned out and felt a yearning to reconnect with the outdoors. He planned to take his mother to a national park she’d not visited yet and to recreate his childhood trips with his wife and their iPad-generation daughter.

In the book, he recounts being stunned by his daughter’s approach to a middle school project on monitoring moon phases. She wrote the report without ever going outside at night to look at the moon. It bothered him enough to ask her about it, and her reply was, “Why would I do that? It’s all on the internet.”

Wood’s burn out coincided with an opportunity to apply for the $75,000 Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship—an award given annually to one editorial writer or columnist to help broaden journalistic horizons and knowledge of the world. He submitted his proposal about visiting the parks to look 100 years in both directions … and won.

The result is “Lassoing the Sun.” In 12 months, Woods visited Redwood, Acadia, Saguaro, Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon, Dry Tortugas, Yellowstone, Gateway, Yosemite, Flight 93, Olympic, Big Bend, Gulf Islands, Haleakala, Timucuan, and Cumberland—all under the umbrella of the National Park Service. He shares a focused perspective on each park’s history as it may help project its future and that of the entire national parks system. More than that, the book is a personal story of what the parks, and the outdoors, meant to Woods and what they will mean to him as he lives and raises a family in a new age.

Purchase “Lassoing the Sun” here.

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