Yesterday I caught up with Michael Lanza, author of the season’s must-read new memoir about bringing up adventure kids in the age of climate change: Before They’re Gone: A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks.
Lanza is a longtime editor at Backpacker magazine, creator of The Big Outside blog, and a devoted outdoor dad who’s logged hundreds of trail miles with his two young kids. Back in 2009, dismayed by scientists’ dire predictions that Glacier National Park’s namesake ice could melt by 2020, he hatched a plan to visit the 10 national parks most threatened by climate change.
But this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill family drive-by. He and his wife, Penny, and their kids ranged from Alaska to the Everglades, Rocky Mountains National Park to Joshua Tree, venturing deep into the backcountry on foot or kayak for days at time. To say that Lanza’s offspring, seven-year-old daughter Alex and nine-year-old son Nate, are hardy adventure kids would be selling them way short: Those two paddled through days of driving rain and dodged grizzlies in Glacier Bay, skirted treacherous ice-slicked trails in the Grand Canyon, and spent what amounted to weeks on end in the company of their parents, without electronic diversions. Hard core.