2012-07-06 / Front Page

Before They’re Gone

Weaving a family journey, the love of nature and life’s lessons
STORY BY TARA KERRIGAN CUCCHIARA
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF
MICHAEL LANZA


Michael is pictured with his family ~ his wife Penny Beach and children Nate and Alex ~ at Glacier National Park. Michael is pictured with his family ~ his wife Penny Beach and children Nate and Alex ~ at Glacier National Park. the Leominster Public Library will host a multimedia presentation given by Leominster native Michael Lanza.

Lanza, an outdoor writer and photographer, will present photos and stories featured in his new book Before They’re Gone on Tuesday July 10th at 7:00 pm. Books will be available for purchase and signing.

Before They’re Gone documents Lanza’s yearlong family adventures exploring America’s most endangered national parks. Specifically, Lanza wanted to show his children parks that face major threats from climate change.

Michael took his family to Glacier National Park, in Montana, where glaciers that have existed for at least 7,000 years are projected to melt away within the next decade. As his family stood on the Gunsight Pass Trail viewing glaciers only a couple miles away, Lanza noted, “They don’t look that big anymore”.

“There used to be 150 glaciers in Glacier National Park, and there are only 27 remaining.” These glaciers are predicted to disappear by around 2020. In fact, scientists had only several years ago thought those glaciers would last until around 2030, but average temperatures have risen faster than researchers had projected.

Lanza knows that climate change is one of the most heavily researched areas in science worldwide. He contributed articles about the impacts of climate change on national parks to Backpacker’s September 2007 issue, which helped the magazine win a National Magazine Award for General Excellence in 2008. Lanza is a longtime outdoor writer and photographer and Northwest editor of Backpacker Magazine. He is also the creator of TheBigOutside.com.

This background prepared Michael and his wife Penny for the family adventure they began in March of 2010. For a full year the couple took their 7 and 9 year old children on wilderness adventures backpacking, sea kayaking, crosscountry skiing, canoeing, and rock climbing in national parks all over the country. They spent many difficult days in harsh weather, sometimes raining and sometimes cold.

“We planned the trip at a level they could manage; we were mentally ready,” Lanza said during a phone interview from his home in Boise Idaho.

Lanza said that his kids valued the lessons. His son Nate and daughter Alex were curious and eager to learn. At times his children’s reactions even shocked Lanza.

After hiking in the rain for four hours straight, his 9 year-old son said, “my body is uncomfortable but this is not that bad,” Lanza recalled.

“Kids can learn lessons through hardship, rather than by whining and having the parents just making it perfect for them,” Lanza notes from experience.

Michael’s writing has been praised for his story telling and his scientific reporting. He weaves the two perspectives seamlessly, compelling his readers.

One reviewer, Meghan J. Ward wrote on June 25, 2012:

[Perhaps most poignant of all are Lanza’s observations about his children as they power their own way through a rugged landscape. The reader becomes enamored by these vignettes and finds hope in Nate and Alex’s fresh perspective on places that are undergoing considerable change. It is in these observations that we understand Lanza’s motivations for taking his family on such an incredible journey through America’s national parks. These landscapes as we know them will someday be gone, and so will the next generation of children. They’ll grow up, move out and move on.]

Lanza, a 1979 graduate of Leominster High School, now lives with his wife and children in Boise, Idaho. His parents, Henry and Joanne Lanza, and three of his four siblings all live in Leominster.

You can see photos and hear stories about his family’s adventures on Tuesday, July 10th, at the Leominster Public Library, 30 West St.

For more information on the library event, please see our Pick of the Week on Page 6 or call the library at (978) 534-7522.

Visit michaellanza.com for more information about the author.

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