Tyra A. Olstad

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Canyon, Mountain, Cloud

Absence and Longing in American Parks

Oregon State University Press

What do we seek and what do we find when we visit parks and protected areas? What does it mean to become so deeply attached to a beautiful, wild place that it becomes part of one’s identity? And why does it matter if a particular landscape doesn’t speak to one’s soul?

Part memoir and part scholarly analysis of the psychological and societal dimensions of place-creation, Canyon, Mountain, Cloud details the author’s experiences working and living in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Denali National Park and Preserve, Adirondack State Park, and arctic Alaska. Along the way, Olstad explores canyons, climbs mountains, watches clouds, rafts rivers, searches for fossils, and protects rare and fragile vegetation. She learns and shares local natural and cultural histories, questions perceptions of “wilderness,” deepens her appreciation for wildness, and reshapes her understanding of self and self-in-place.

Anyone who has ever felt appreciation for wild places and who wants to think more deeply about individual and societal relationships with American parks and protected areas will find humor, fear, provocation, wonder, awe, and, above all, inspiration in these pages.

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