In a series of beautifully restrained essays, Smith describes the terror and the boredom of life in the canyons, and muses about the larger purpose of his work. "If you’re lucky, you get assigned to people who seem worth saving and land and waters whose situation is not hopeless," he writes. "If not, you save them anyway."
The Auburn State Recreation Area, he makes clear, is not easy to love. But he argues, with the credibility of long experience, that even the most damaged of natural places are still worth our close attention. "Even with our interventions, and now because of them, the world continues to be mysterious and accidental," he concludes. "In the end, much of what is seemingly known and tamed is in fact unknown and untamed."
Nature Noir: A Park Ranger’s Patrol in the Sierra
Jordan Fisher Smith
224 pages, hardcover $24.
Houghton Mifflin, 2004.