For those who may find it hard to accomplish their goals in a day’s time—or, as in this case, a year—we can be grateful that, according to an ancient Hawaiian legend, Maui lassoed the sun and made it promise to slow down its trek across the sky, so that his mother could get her work done. Be glad, too, that Mark Woods won a year’s sabbatical from his newspaper job to visit 15 national parks, a journey he shares in Lassoing the Sun. It becomes a dazzling experience indeed, one that honors the memory of his own mother and her inspiring love of the parks.
From sunrise on January 1 atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in Maine, to sunset on December 31 on a volcano rim in Haleakala National Park in Hawaii, Woods serves as guide and guru as the National Park Service celebrates its first 100 years. The anniversary comes laden with questions about the future of the parks. What’s the best way to manage wildlife? How can the parks be protected from potentially destructive private interests, like uranium mining near the Grand Canyon? Will light pollution rob parks of their starry skies? How many climbers on Yosemite’s Half Dome are too many? Will rising seas doom Dry Tortugas National Park? What if the parks become irrelevant?
Woods folds these big questions around his own midlife angst and grief over his mother’s dying days near her beloved Saguaro National Park. Remembering his family’s past trips to the parks, and bringing along his wife and daughter as he revisits them, Woods weaves a timeline that traverses generations, raising more challenges for the future every step of the way.