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“Before They’re Gone:” A Family’s Yearlong Odyssey to America’s Disappearing National Parks

Michael Lanza and his family

It’s an old cliché that teens let parental advice fall on deaf ears.

Parents often encourage their kids to do something or appreciate something “before it’s too late.” Only years later, after having their own learning experiences, do those teens realize the sensibility behind their parents’ words.

As the Northwest Editor of Backpacker Magazine, Michael Lanza came to understand the important “too late” lesson in a large way: America’s National Parks.

Most Americans notice global warming through sweltering summers and strange weather patterns. An outdoor adventurer experiences climate change in a more personal and up-close way. Lanza has watched the noticeable deterioration of our national parks.

Giving an example on The Takeaway, Lanza said, “a leading federal scientist who runs an elite team of researchers on climate change at [Glacier National Park in Montana] is projecting that those glaciers will be gone by about the year 2020. The park had 150 glaciers that covered almost 40 square miles in 1850, and in a century in a half they’re down to about 27 glaciers.”

Rather than tell his children about the beauty and wonder held by these disappearing parks, Lanza showed them. Lanza and his wife took their 7-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son on a yearlong journey to see as many threatened national parks as they could fit into the time limit. In April, Lanza published Before They’re Gone, the narrative of his family’s enviable odyssey.

The book is a wonderful read for anyone who appreciates the majestic beauty of America’s outdoors. Lanza chronicles the family’s visits to Glacier Bay, the Everglades and so many in between. The book also shares the incredible lessons his children learned from experiencing all that these wild lands have to offer and actively understanding what America – and their young generation – is losing.