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Before They're Gone: A Family's Year-Long Quest to Explore America's Most Endangered National Parks

3.61  ·  Rating Details ·  210 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
A longtime backpacker, climber, and skier, Michael Lanza knows our national parks like the back of his hand. As a father, he hopes to share these special places with his two young children. But he has seen firsthand the changes wrought by the warming climate and understands what lies ahead: Alaska’s tidewater glaciers are rapidly retreating, and the abundant sea life in th ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published April 3rd 2012 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

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Kristal Cooper
Mar 27, 2012 Kristal Cooper rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I'm going to give this author the highest praise I can think of: His writing style is Krakauer-esque. The words and phrases he uses to describe the outdoors and his family's experiences evoke perfect images. Some may think it's hyperbole, but I assure you that our National Parks are worthy.

One of my favorite lines: "Powerful landscapes like the Tetons will manhandle your psyche; they can make you wonder what the hell you've been doing all these years, for which you won't have a satisfying answe
Malin Friess
Apr 27, 2015 Malin Friess rated it it was amazing
Imagine Glacier National Park in Montana with no glaciers, Joshua tree National Park in California with no Dr. Seuss like Joshua trees, Everglades national park in Florida completly underwater with no mangrove tunnels, Rocky Mountain National Park with no Aspen trees (all killed off by Mountain Pine Beetles), Yellowstone without Grizzly Bears, The Grand Canyon NP to hot to descend into, or worse yet...Yosemite National park with its magestic waterfalls slowed to a trickle.

Backpacker Michael Lanz
Jul 15, 2013 Teresa rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Let me just say to begin, that I love our National Parks System. I have a loose plan to visit all of them someday before I die. The reason I picked this book off the library shelves is because I love the National Parks.

That being said... This is an okay book. There are 10 chapters, each one devoted to a national park that the author's family visited over the course of a year. For most of the trips, the author's wife accompanied him and for all the trips, so did his young children (ages 7 and 9).
Laura Cottam Sajbel
Aug 19, 2013 Laura Cottam Sajbel rated it really liked it
I felt positively guilty as I read this book--Not only for being part of the human population contributing to the global warming that is melting the permafrost, but for not having trekked my kids on three-day backpacking excursions through far-flung reaches of all the National Parks. Lanza has a very understanding wife, apparently; she acquiesces to paddling in kayaks past 12-foot gators in the Everglades and hiking through grizzly territory in Glacier, with two small kiddos in tow.

Lanza, a wri
Mar 29, 2012 Tammielyn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-read
Before They're Gone is equal parts travel journal, personal memoir, and environmental reality check. Author Michael Lanza's year long quest to share with his children the most threatened parks in America is both bittersweet, and heartwarming. Liberally sprinkled with memories of past treks, scientific data, and the simple pleasures of a parent spending time with his kids. Michael's detailed, and often times humorous, writing makes you long to be relaxing in the shade of lodgepole pines in the Ro ...more
Nov 11, 2012 Trish rated it liked it
I wish the author would have added more photos to this book. The author does a good job of describing some of the many bad climate/global warming changes that may take place during my lifetime, and my kids and grandkids will have to deal with the fallout. While I would love to take a year off and travel to as many national parks as possible, he took some risks I would not take with my kids (hikes on an narrow icy trail at the Grand Canyon). His kids were very lucky to be able to take this trip, ...more
Leighanne Medina
May 16, 2016 Leighanne Medina rated it it was ok
I really wanted to love this book, but from the first few pages I knew it was going to be a slog.

I graced this book with 2 stars because I love the fact that the author wrote about National Parks. Also, the author did lead me to thinking about our Earth and just how small we are on this Earth.

I was super intrigued about a book where a family visited many different national parks over the course of the year. I was excited to hear of their journey and what they learned/discovered.

However, this boo
Oct 11, 2012 Nancy rated it did not like it
An ultimate "We're Killing the Earth, Global Warming" book. the author took his 9- and 7-year olds to 10 US National Parks for 3-4 day adventures. He feels these parks are most at risk because of decreasing glacier areas, rising oceans, threats to flora and fauna. The incidents with the children are interesting but the message is so slanted and pervasive I can't imagine why I kept reading. While he cites a number of scientists and "experts: he buys it all with no question. There is no balance.
Matthew Ciarvella
Dec 26, 2015 Matthew Ciarvella rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
I think this book has done more for me than most others about my own reservations about the possible future of having kids. The adventures that Lanza takes his kids on, the way he deals with the logistics of backpacking with small children . . . it's all an inspiring lesson that parenthood does not mean abandoning or even pausing my love of visiting wild places.

The meditations on what climate change will do to the places they visit is sobering and, honestly, pretty depressing. It's an important
Patty Garland
Aug 12, 2015 Patty Garland rated it it was amazing
I was skeptical at first thinking this would be another person using [insert public crisis] to bank roll their own adventure or marathon or documentary. But he convinced me. Perhaps because I'm a biased parent who wants my son to find wonder in the same wildernesses I have. From Alaska's Glacier Bay to Florida's Everglades and everything in between Lanza describes the unique character of each park and the sober effects of climate change. If the reader is inspired to positively change their carbo ...more
Jul 04, 2016 Teri rated it really liked it
The story of one families quest to visit the most endangered of our beloved National Parks in one year. Michael and Penny take their nine year old son Nate and seven year old daughter Alex to backpack, camp, ski, and canoe these landmarks.

The beautiful descriptions of the parks are expertly interwoven with factual information on climate change and the impact it has already had on these diverse ecosystems. The observations of the children offer fresh perspectives.

I really enjoyed this book, I f
Carol Wakefield
May 30, 2014 Carol Wakefield rated it really liked it
Lanza feels the future prospects for our national parks as the effects of global warming accelerate are grim. But along with the dire forecast his year of traveling through the parks with his wife, his 7 yr old and 10 yr old is presented as an enchanting experience. I envied them a number of their experiences, skiing in yellowstone, hiking in glacier and canoeing in the Everglades. No mention of mosquitoes?? Is that possible in the Everglades? Nevertheless it's a delightful look at these wonderf ...more
Jul 23, 2012 Sean rated it it was amazing
Full confession - I received this book through a GoodReads giveaway earlier this year. It makes me happy to review it, but the five star rating was earned on its merits.

I thought the book was excellent. The author has a wonderful way of describing the national treasures he and his family visited. It made you feel like you were hiking, paddling, or climbing right next to him. It is always difficult to capture that mystical moment of nature, but he does an outstanding job chapter after chapter.

Jun 11, 2012 Kathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who care about the environment
Finally a well-written memoir based on science and real life experience! I loved the way the author described the natural scenery and the entire "feel" of every place he visited; he made me want to follow in his footsteps and visit some of these places before they become unrecognizable. I truly enjoyed the author's conversational writing style which made reading some of the more dire and depressing sections still readable. But also I appreciated how the author brought his young children into wil ...more
Oct 18, 2012 Minna rated it it was amazing
Don't want a lecture? don't read this review.


This book = so, so inspiring. The research is impeccable and extensive and terrifying; I cannot imagine how people aren't concerned about the fate of the planet in the fate of such overwhelming evidence.
So, the author makes it his goal to visit some of the country's national parks with his children over 12 months so that they can witness for themselves the natural beauty that may, by the time his kids are adults, be drastically changed or eve
James Edward Mills
Oct 02, 2012 James Edward Mills rated it really liked it
Before They're Gone by Michael Lanza is cautionary journey that explores the likely outcomes in store for our National Parks should we ignore the growing threat of climate change. And typical of most modern problems, not unlike our current economic crisis, those to be most directly effected by our generations' failure to act won't be ourselves but our children. Taking his two young kids on a year-long odyssey to visit America's most iconic wild places, Lanza leads us all on an expedition through ...more
Jennie Richards
Nov 03, 2013 Jennie Richards rated it really liked it
Loved the book! I have traveled and hiked many of the National Parks that Michael Lanza, the author, highlights in this book - and was drawn to read it while hiking in Mount Lassen National Park this fall. But what was especially meaningful and powerful to me were all the statistics, scientific research, and many studies and reports he cites about the impacts of global warming and climate change on each national park he visits with his family. He describes in good detail about how the impact of ...more
Karen Snyder
Aug 18, 2014 Karen Snyder rated it it was amazing
I expected this book to be more of a comedy of errors as a family finds themselves in touristy type traps in our national parks. Instead I found this book to be particularly insightful, terrifying at times and very well researched. A quick glimpse into how fast our national parks, nature and the environment around us is disappearing and catastrophically changing before our very eyes.
Aug 29, 2014 Lee rated it it was amazing
This author did a phenomenal job! He wrote of two passions - his family and the earth in which they will live. Taking a 7-year-old and a 9-year-old mountain climbing, rock climbing and hiking/camping in the wilderness can be a challenge. With a great sense of humor and a serious concern for the environment, Lanza told his story in a way that engaged my attention throughout the book. A GREAT read and will remain one of my favorites!
Christina Mcgann
Aug 16, 2015 Christina Mcgann rated it really liked it
Well written and researched. As some of the other reviews said, made me feel both awful about being part of the human race, and guilty for not getting my family outside more. At the end, I felt generally hopeless about the future of our world. Glad I read it, but now I need to go find an environmental volunteer organization to go work for.
Nannette McMurtry
Aug 23, 2013 Nannette McMurtry rated it really liked it
This book is equal parts adventure and lament. Adventure because the author is taking his kids to explore the national parks before they are so
heavily changed they become un-recognizable. It is also his lament at how quickly things are changing. I connected most when he talked about the feeling he gets when walking his kids on these challenging's our passion as parents to give our kids these kinds of adventures! I also know the feeling of watching your kid enraptured by the beauty th
Sherri Anderson
Mar 10, 2014 Sherri Anderson rated it really liked it
This was a great book, informative, fun, and important to hear that our national parks are disappearing or changing forever. It makes me wish I took my kids to more parks when they were little and I want to make sure my grandkids get to create the memories of our greatest treasures before they are gone forever.
Jul 13, 2013 Megan rated it really liked it
Although I found the writing a bit dry and formulaic at times, this book was a good read. I really admire the lengths the author has taken to introduce his young children to our national parks. I wanted to read about his experiences backpacking with them in anticipation of being able to do that myself in a few years. I didn't realize from the title that the book details changes that each of the parks will undergo in the next few human generations due to climate change. It can get depressing, but ...more
Matt Grommes
Aug 26, 2014 Matt Grommes rated it really liked it
I loved this book but it's incredibly depressing as well as inspiring. After reading this book I've started to review my family vacation plans so my kids can see some of these endangered places before they're gone. It's dizzying to think places like these could change so radically or disappear during our lifetimes.
I didn't really enjoy Michael Lanza's "Before They're Gone: A Family's Year-Long Quest to Explore America's Most Endangered National Parks." However, it was probably due to a case of misplaced expectations.

I expected a book detailing Lanza's trips with his young children-- filled with their backpacking and hiking adventures, including trials and tribulations. What I got was a hit-you-over-the-head again and again lecture on climate change. The book was really too preachy to be enjoyable.

Had thi
Jun 02, 2015 Patricia rated it really liked it
A good read. Inspiring now that I have children of my own. I think the author went a little overboard on his metaphors and descriptions but otherwise enjoyable.
Mar 06, 2015 Connie rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldn-t_finish
ugg, I just could not stick with this book.

I wanted to hear about his family adventures but it was mostly about the climate changes.

Very disappointed.
Aug 23, 2012 Cynthia rated it it was ok
I thought the author had a great idea/plan in introducing his children to endangered national parks. What an adventure for this family. I read thru this book rather quickly, considering that it's really not all that 'easy' a read, so I think that says something for it's 'staying power', it's ability to keep the reader attached to the book. This book has alot of concrete, exact, scientific, measured ... alot of information to absorb....& that's what I think makes it a more challenging read. I ...more
Audrey Lee
Mar 23, 2015 Audrey Lee rated it it was amazing
We sealed our summer plan now...this is an amazing book that I had to revisit. Lanza brings a high level of consciousness to modern day parenting and climate change.
Apr 24, 2014 Sara rated it really liked it
A little bit armchair adventure, a little bit National Park love letters, a little bit sweet parenting reflections, and a lot of facts about how climate change is affecting some of the true gems of nature in America. It is lovely, and asks us to reflect on what we want to pass on to our children, and what kind of world we hope to hand them, and what we are willing to do to make that happen.
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