Houghton Mifflin, 2006 (paperback reprint).

Review published Mar 2007.

Like most career park rangers, Fisher-Smith chose his vocation because of his love of the outdoors and of wilderness. After several years of working and adventuring, from Alaska through the Sierra Nevada, he found himself a California state park ranger in the gorgeous American River area near Auburn, California. The only trouble was that the river was intended to be dammed as part of a flood control project, so the powers-that-were saw no reason to support anything more than minimal efforts by park rangers.

However, the political winds blew in different directions, and during the author's two decades of service the dam was never built. He spent his time with more mundane problems. As he says, people who come to the wilderness bring their troubles with them. The rangers needed to spend more effort on law enforcement than on sharing their wilderness knowledge, and the variety of minor crimes and major nuisances is astonishing, and if "noire" overstates the situation, they did have moments of true danger. The unexpected climax to the book adds a useful caution to anybody spending time close to nature.

The author has a gift for making his anecdotes fresh and vivid. This is a book that all nature-lovers should enjoy.