Canyon, Mountain, Cloud explores how people develop a sense of place through experience as the author travels in four National Parks: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Denali National Park and Preserve, Adirondack Park (a six-million-acre wilderness preserve), and Gates of the Arctic National Park. Olstad writes this work as part memoir, part geography, in amusing and often informal language. Her working experiences as a guide, hiker, and paleontologist offer an insider’s view into these different parks. She shows that governmental decisions to set aside these spaces were based on appreciation of their beauty (sometimes made quantifiable by social-scientific matrices). That perhaps represents the lesser part of her story, set against a framing of her romantic relationships with an unnamed biotech engineer and, later, a backcountry ranger. Olstad’s sense of place is personal: intimately tied to memories, to affect, and to the dynamic circumstances of her own life. Throughout,...

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