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From Sea to Shining Sea
America's national park system is immense. Its network of over 335 properties comprised of national monuments (129), national historic parks (57), national historic sites (85), national parks (64, including Gettysburg National Military Park), have made it the gold standard of park systems for more than a hundred years. In survey after survey, America's National Park Service consistently receives the highest marks of any government agency. While Americans can't agree on much these days, it's nice to know there's one thing we can: we love our national parks.

The National Parks of America: An Illustrated Guide to All the National Parks, Preserves, Monuments, Seashores, and Historic Sites of the United States of America
by James Murfin
W. H. Smith Publishers, 1989
ISBN: 0-8317-6328-0
$13.50, 280 pp

At the time of printing, The National Parks of America: An Illustrated Guide to All the National Parks, Preserves, Monuments, Seashores, and Historic Sites of the United States of America, by James Murfin, covered all the national parks, historic sites, preserves, monuments and seashores under the protection of the National Park Service. Since then others have been added, removed or redesignated. The National Park Service is a vast agency, managing properties across 47 states, four US territories, and the District of Columbia in an effort to preserve the nation's history and natural splendors for the general public to experience. America's national park system is, in effect, a living museum.

The High Ground
The National Parks of America covers the highest ground in all of North America (Denali, formerly Mount McKinley, 20,320 feet) to the lowest in the entire Western Hemisphere (Death Valley, minus 282 feet), and all elevations in-between. It celebrates our smallest national parks (Seattle's portion of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is comprised of a single storefront) alongside our titans (Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve covers a whopping 13.2 million acres). Though not the first national park (Wyoming's Yellowstone holds that title), Arkansas' Hot Springs National Park was the first federal land reserve when in 1832 Congress made the unprecedented move of setting aside the land around the springs for preservation. Nobody knew it then, but it was the first step toward creating a national park system, though it would take nearly ninety years for the hot springs to gain entry to the club.

With a layout that's user-friendly - states are organized alphabetically, with the parks and sites within the state listed alphabetically as well - it's hard to get lost in this guide. The title page of each state has a state map, with the parks and sites indicated on it. A quick glance gives you an idea of where each is located. Not supplied are driving times between sites, but Murfin more than makes up for that by packing the book with full-color photographs. It's called an illustrated guide for good reason.

Economy of Words
Murfin's commentary and descriptions are generally thorough, providing anecdotes on park histories, and concise backgrounds on historical sites, although sometimes a bit too concise. The history buff - particularly when it comes to the Revolutionary War - will be left wanting.

      Fans of Mount Rainier - a popular subject of the photographer - will love this book.

Minor faults aside, The National Parks of America is an intriguing read. It's history, biology, geography, geology and archaeology all-in-one. While it is meant to inspire the outdoor adventurer in you, its illustrations and text will please your sedentary side as well. So, pick up a copy of this book and climb a mountain. Or, pick up a copy of this book and don't. Either way, the photographs alone are worth its purchase.

Views, Washington: A Collection of Photographs
by Chris Jacobson
Emerald Point Press, 1996
ISBN: 0-9637816-2-6
$7.95, 48 pp

In Views, Washington: A Collection of Photographs, Chris Jacobson focuses his lens on the Pacific Northwest. A compilation of scenic wonders in Washington state, he covers the ground from sea stacks on the coast, to the arid eastern wheat fields of the Palouse. The pages between are filled with tranquil scenes, including the Cascade Mountains and city skylines, each reflecting Jacobson's expert eye for composition.

While not all-inclusive of the state's national parks, Jacobson's aim is true. His photos capture vistas from unusual viewpoints, revealing mountainsides, forests, and lakes from perspectives the average park visitor rarely accesses. Fans of Mount Rainier - a popular subject of the photographer - will love this book.

The small format of Views (5" x 6") makes it a handy traveling companion. The photographs, suitable for framing, make it a cherishable souvenir for both visitors and residents of the Evergreen state alike.

posted 05/20/23