Park Related Books I Read in 2019


A blogger I follow, Ken Dowell, recently posted his top six books of 2019. That gave me the idea to look at the books I’ve read this year and rate the ones related to public lands. I completed my Goodreads challenge of 38 books read for the year, up from 32 in 2018.


Three of the 38 were related to National Parks and one to a National Forest. When we are traveling to our vacation destinations by plane, I like to download a novel about that place to read on the journey. Alas, I was in the midst of a 1000 page fantasy epic on our flight to Hawaii this year, but I managed to get in a viewing of Moana with my daughter to get into the Aloha spirit.


Have you ever read a book about, or set in a National Park? Would you recommend it? Here are the ones I read this year, in no particular order:

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie  hanilton

This is a work of historical fiction, but a very well-researched, compelling one. Not having a small fortune to spend on the Broadway production of Hamilton, this was a more accessible way to form a connection to our founding fathers and the birth of our nation. I especially liked that it was told from Eliza’s point of view.

The authors discuss their sources at the end of the book and they did travel to many of the sites where the events took place, such as Saratoga, Morristown and The Grange. After reading the novel, I saw that the Grange was putting on an Eliza-focused event for Women’s History month and I made sure to attend.


Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr

This is the first in a series of 19 books about the adventures of Anna Pigeon, a National catPark Service Law Enforcement Ranger. Each novel is a mystery which Anna must solve within the confines of a national park and its community.

Track of the Cat is Anna’s first assignment to Guadalupe Mountains National Park in West Texas. There she must solve the puzzle behind the mysterious death of a fellow ranger.

Nevada Barr was a Park Ranger herself and created the character of Anna Pigeon when she was working in Guadalupe NP. Her descriptive imagery of the terrain, wildlife and the insider view of the NPS can only have come from firsthand experience.

I have not yet been to any of the Texas parks, but my friends Scott and Tiff over at Raven About The Parks have blogged about Guadalupe. You can see that post here.

Dark Divide and Badlands Witch by Carrie Vaughn

darkThese paranormal novellas are very loosely tied to public lands. An ex-con retired from vampire hunting and the centuries old witch who shares his consciousness travel to Donner Pass to help a Tahoe National Forest Ranger solve the mystery behind another ranger’s death…was it the ghosts of the Donner Party?

I don’t have pictures, but I have been through Donner Pass. A friend and I were traveling for our company many years ago. The plan was to start off in our Reno stores and then drive to Sacramento to rendezvous with a district manager. A sudden snowstorm in the pass trapped us in a fleabag motel in Reno for the night. Rather than risk the specter of starvation and cannibalism in a Sierra Nevada blizzard, we shared a room, pushed a dresser against the door and slept with one eye open until the sun rose the next day.

In Badlands Witch, the duo heads to the Badlands to solve another supernatural murderbad mystery. These books are fun, quick reads that are more about immersing the reader in the Kitty-verse (these characters are a spin-off from the Kitty Norville series) than in the landscape, but the author did do her research to make sure she got the vibe right.

Carrie Vaughn posted about her Badlands research trip here. She also visited Deadwood and Custer State Park.


Happy New Year!


Custer State Park


Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.


Custer State Park is South Dakota’s largest and first state park, named for Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer, of the infamous ‘Custer’s Last Stand’ in the American Indian War. The park protects 71,000 acres in the Black Hills. The Black Hills name is translated from the Lakota Pahá Sápa, who called them that because the dense pine tree forests  make them appear dark when seen from a distance.


We were staying at Custer’s Chief Motel (a clean, no-frills family run motel with the advantage of family suites with separate bedrooms and a big indoor pool for the kids) and they offered us a free pass to visit Custer State Park. It had been on our itinerary anyway, but we appreciated the perk.


We entered the park from highway 16 and pulled over in a few places to walk around and admire the views of the Black Hills.


Next we headed to the State Game Lodge for a snack and the gift shop. This was Calvin Coolidge’s Summer White House in 1927. President Eisenhower also spent some time here in 1953.


Then we drove the park’s Wildlife Loop. The park is home to a large herd of bison, pronghorn, deer, elk and most thrilling for the kids: the Begging Burros.


Please note, we did NOT feed the burros, though it obvious these feral donkeys are comfortable around cars and humans and used to being fed by them. Once these fellas realized we had no food, they moved on to the next group.


The wildlife loop is 18 miles long and took us almost two hours to drive because of the frequent stops and wildlife crossings, but we enjoyed every minute of it, keeping our eyes peeled for bison (who hid from us until the very end of the loop.)


Location: 13329 US Hwy 16A, Custer, SD 57730

Designation: State Park

Date designated or established: 1912

Date of my visit: 7/31/2009