Wilderness Alps: Conservation and Conflict in Washington's North Cascades

by Harvey Manning
ed. Ken Wilcox
foreward by David Brower
published by the North Cascades Conservation Council

Wilderness Alps is a history of the conservation efforts in the North Cascades. I am not an expert in Northwest history by any means, but this seems like a thoroughly researched, detailed account of the years leading up to the formation of the national park and recreation areas in the North Cascades, focusing mainly on the second half of the 20th century. Please note that the NCCC has a stake and some strongly held positions in this issue. Don't read the book looking for an unbiased approach.

Really, though, this is the fun of and genius of the book, which drew me in despite my initial impulse. I am going to come right out and confess to you right now that I am not a nature girl. The only times I have left the city limits in the past six months were to go to meetings or shopping. I live by the lake but I mainly observe it through my front window. I get really cranky if I don't get a shower each day or if someone innocently suggests I should go for a hike that does not involve a really good bakery on the other end.

So . . . when I first received this book to review, I eyed it warily. But it's a beautiful book, physically. The cover photo and design is really lovely -- not too granola-ish. It's got a nice heft. Although it's a paperback, the cover has front and back inside flaps (I love it when this happens! Every book publisher should do this!). There are two substantial sections of color photos, with black and white photos and maps throughout. Mountains are pretty! The book begs to be read.

And it turned out to be an enjoyable read because of its tone and scope. The author, Seattle native Harvey Manning, who died in 2006, was a well known author and conservationist. He successfully manages to combine his passion for conservation with both a sense of humor and a serious call to action. All of this is just seasoning; the bulk of the book is a thoroughly detailed chronicle of the history of the conservation efforts of the region.

Clearly this is a must read for all of you nature kids out there. But I think it can be a really valuable book for those of you coffee shop dwellers who are just trying to understand the nature kids too, who listen warily to those stories of climbing Mt. Baker or spending weeks under the trees, or who, like me, simply marvel at the beauty of the place where we live when you get those glimpses of mountaintops when turning the final corner on your Metro Bus route each day.

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