Book Review: Lost In My Own Backyard

Lost In My Own Backyard, by Tim Cahill

There are two kinds of books that one can read by Tim Cahill.  There are books that make the author appear a bit clueless and that encourage the reader to travel like him, where his quirks are endearing rather than annoying.  On the other hand, there are books by the author where the political discourse gets out of hand and where the author comes off as a giant tool who insults the reader and appears entirely undeserved of the privilege of being able to travel on someone else’s dime for writing about it.  Fortunately, this book is the first kind and not the second, and it is a short volume to boot, and also one that should inspire the reader to pick up other books (including one I really want to read myself, namely Death In Yellowstone, which sounds amazingly morbid or morbidly amazing, or both).  And any book that is not only enjoyable on its own right (as well as part of a series on journeys that I have only read in part [1]) but that encourages the reader to read more books is definitely a success as far as I am concerned.  Hopefully you agree.

This short volume of less than 150 pages begins with an introduction where the author admits to having gotten lost in Yellowstone even though it is very close to where he lives in Montana.  As someone who has gotten lost in the wilderness before, I can certainly empathize.  After that comes a selection of day hikes that the author has taken in Yellowstone, narrated with a good deal of humor and discussing such areas as Mount Washburn, the Norris Geyser Basin, the Upper Geyser Basin and Old Faithful, Artists’ Paintpots, the Monument Geyser Basin, Ice Lake, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, The Lamar Valley, and Fossil Forest.  After that the author goes into a bit more detail about three good backcountry treks that the author has gone on in Yellowstone, into the Thorofare, the Goblin Labyrinth, and the River of Reliable Rainbows, which is such an obscure waterfall that the author is forbidden from giving its exact location lest it become overly seen by other tourists.  Finally, the book ends with a selection of worthy books on Yellowstone to read as well as a series of acknowledgements, making this a short volume that one wishes were a bit longer as it could easily include more content to enjoy.

There are at least a few qualities that make this a book that is easy to appreciate.  For one, the author has the good sense to write about a place that is not so remote that people cannot plan to travel there (although admittedly I have never yet been to Yellowstone and only once to the state of Wyoming at all, and never to Montana either as of yet).  For another, the book is written in a way that is designed to appeal to the popular reader who is fascinated by discussion of petrified forests, Yellowstone’s noted fauna–from bison to bears to trout seeking to cross the great divide through the swampy ground that straddles the divide between two watersheds that end up in the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean, respectively.  The author approaches his subject with a suitably populist tone, noting his amusement at the flatulent sounds of the artists’ paintpots and the way that Old Faithful is well worth seeing even if it is really popular, and only occasionally glorifies in his tough-guy willingness to make rigorous climbs to travel to areas that receive far fewer visitors.  All in all, this is a worthwhile guide to walking in an area that is well-worth seeing.


About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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