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June 2nd, 2016

Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite
by Michael P. Ghiglieri & Charles R. “Butch” Farabee, Jr.


Every year, accidents lead to tragic deaths in America's national parks. In Yosemite alone, nearly nine hundred people have died through falls, drowning, exposure, or criminal activity. In this comprehensive account of Yosemite's history, Michael Ghiglieri and Butch Farabee catalog the many ways that folks have met untimely ends in Yosemite. Peppering the grim anecdotes are also tales of rescue and the extreme effort it takes to save a life in the backwoods and sheer cliffs of America's wild. The authors occasionally enter the narrative, as both men assisted in search and rescue efforts throughout the park. They bring authority and occasional dry humor to the gripping, horrifying collection of stories.

This isn't a book for everyone. First and foremost, it's very sad. So many of these accidental deaths could have been prevents if visitors to the park would follow the instructions from rangers or posted on signs. A bit of common sense would have saved so many lives. Some thrill seekers make such appalling, poor decisions that it seems inevitable that they find a tragic ending, but that doesn't erase the lost potential of that life.

But if you are fascinated by the macabre, by harrowing tales of midnight rescues in deep snow or dangerous maneuvers done by men who can barely see in the dark, then this book is so interesting. When the book was published in 2007, it contained every Yosemite death that the authors were able to find in old and contemporary records. The deaths are listed by type: there's a chapter for drowning, climbing accidents, vehicle accidents, suicide, homicide, and more. Many of the incidents are described with novelistic flair, recreating the final moments before tragedy struck. When a victim survives, excerpts from post-accident interviews are included to fully demonstrate the impact on their lives in the weeks, months, and years after their rescue.

For those of you who trend toward squeamish, I thought I'd mention that excepting the skeleton on the cover, there are no photos of the deceased in the book. Each chapter is opened with a photograph or illustration of a Yosemite landmark or the park's wildlife, and that is it for illustration. Nothing terribly graphic.

Interested in the subject but Yosemite isn't your national park of choice? I've seen variations on this theme chronicling deaths in the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, and the Great Smoky Mountains. Poke around and I daresay you can find a few stories for any of the national parks. But I recommend this one. Ghiglieri and Farabee are a good team, capturing the drama and tragedy of each story, making tales that would be worthy of telling beside a campfire on your next adventure out in the woods.

5 out of 5 stars


To read more about Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.





Peeking into the archives...today in:
2015: New Releases: June 2nd, 2015
2014: American Rose by Karen Abbott
2013: The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
2012: Fashionista Piranha on vacation until June 9th…
2011: Fashionista Piranha will be on hiatus for a while…
2010: Giveaway #13: Asian Pacific American Book Lot Winner
2009: The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

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