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Grizzlies on my mind - Michael W. Leach

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Grizzlies on my mind - essays of adventure, love, and heartache from Yellowstone country
Michael W. Leach
Paperback / softback
WestWinds Press
UK Publication Date

What is it about Yellowstone National Park that draws millions of visitors from all over the world? If you've visited Yellowstone, you should already know the answer. If you've never visited-or you have, but still don't know the answer-Michael Leach explains it to you in his book of essays, Grizzlies on My Mind.

Leach is a Yellowstone insider with unmatched passion for this nation's first national park. At the age of twenty-two, Leach's dream of becoming a Yellowstone ranger came true. It wasn't long before he'd earned the nickname "Rev" for his powerful Yellowstone "sermons."

In Grizzlies on My Mind, Leach shares his love for Yellowstone-its landscapes and wildlife, especially its iconic bison and grizzlies-as he tells tales that will delight anyone interested in the national park system, wildlife and wild landscapes, rivers and adventure. Heartwarming and heartbreaking stories of human lives lost, efforts to save a black bear cub, a famous wolf who helped Leach through some dark personal days, the unique and oftentimes humorous Yellowstone "culture," backpacking trips that nearly ended in disaster, and Leach's spiritual journey with his Assiniboine-Gros Ventre "brother" fill the pages-and the reader's heart.

If you've never been charged by an elk, traveled solo at dawn across Yellowstone's frigid interior (working your way slowly through a herd of peaceful bison in the process), or lain awake in a backcountry tent, listening for the spine-tingling breaths of a curious grizzly-but you crave such experiences, Grizzlies on My Mind is the book for you.

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Michael W. Leach is a former Bear Education Ranger in Yellowstone National Park and has written numerous pieces for regional publications, including Yellowstone Discovery, Outside Bozeman, Distinctly Montana, New West, and Wyoming Wildlife. Known for his innovative and passionate approach, Michael brings a contemporary style to the nature genre through his rich and heartfelt prose while connecting readers with the raw power of wild places like Yellowstone. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.

"The flora and fauna of Yellowstone becomes the setting of a spiritual journey in this luscious memoir.

For seven years, the scenery of Michael W. Leach's daily commute was beyond enviable: bands of roaming bison, marauding grizzlies, charging elk, and sulking wolves that peppered stunning vistas. In Grizzlies on My Mind: Essays of Adventure, Love, and Heartache from Yellowstone Country, Leach delivers a beautiful tribute to the Yellowstone National Park or, as he calls it, the "spine of the continent," where he spent over a decade as a ranger, naturalist, guide, park nonprofit director, and wildlife advocate.

Written like a journal, the chapters convey Leach's rapture for Yellowstone as an iconic American landscape and one of its last truly wild frontiers. Such scenery can be as cruel as it is invigorating: it is a place "where ignorance or carelessness can help you become part of the food chain." For instance, he tells of an overly zealous amateur bear enthusiast who after being mauled by a grizzly bear is forced to walk miles back to camp holding the skin on his face in place.

Leach also regales readers with several stories of his own brushes with danger: a hormone-crazed elk who chased him through the deck of a cabin, the search for the body of a park visitor after a fatal fall, keeping park visitors at a safe distance from a grizzly and wolf having a stand-off over an elk carcass, and tumultuous snowmobile excursions.

Diagnosed with a debilitating autoimmune disorder, Leach was forced to stop his basketball career at an early age and undergo a cycle of pain intervention and other medical treatment. He credits his career as a ranger as saving his sense of self, and Grizzlies on My Mind is Leach's spiritual journey. An early essay describes a Native American healing ritual, and there are short essays throughout the collection in which Leach conjures animistic reverence for the park's impressive flora and fauna.

Grizzlies on My Mind has wide appeal as an intimate account of life within one of America's national treasures beyond the rocketing waters of Old Faithful. Leach's inspired prose evokes how the land and its creatures hold special powers over those lucky enough to witness them firsthand. As Leach describes, "each day spent in Yellowstone has the potential to remedy a broken heart and calm a racing mind." As evidence, he points out that any day he spends with park visitors ends in hugs rather than handshakes."

-Amanda McCorquodale, Foreword Reviews

"Three and a half million people see Yellowstone National Park every year, but few people see as clearly and deeply into the park as Michael Leach. Yellowstone's combination of natural attributes and human oddities makes it a truly weird and wonderful place. Leach lifts a curtain, lets you see a layer of the park the casual visitor would never know. He writes with equal admiration for the subtleties and splendor-and the understanding that sometimes the subtleties are the splendor. Leach provides glimpses of the people-from biologists to law enforcement staff to astonishing gym rats in the border town of Gardiner-and the animals that make Yellowstone a world unto itself.
Whether writing about famous wolves, dinosaur bones, arrowheads, marmots or grizzly bears, Leach writes with a passion that is as inspiring as his subject. His journey of discovery through Yellowstone is both public and poignantly personal. Treat yourself to this unique and passionate perspective on America's greatest national park." -Jeff Hull, author of Pale Morning Done and Streams of Consciousness

The flora and fauna of Yellowstone becomes the setting of a spiritual journey in this luscious memoir.-Amanda McCorquodale, Foreword Reviews

"Michael Leach dreamed of becoming a Yellowstone park ranger. He got his wish and, with his memoir GRIZZLIES ON MY MIND, he takes us on a personal journey, traveling with an unguarded heart into the mystery and beauty of the Yellowstone backcountry. He passionately and correctly speaks his outrage against the 'barbaric' trapping of the park's wandering wolves, of the inhumane bison slaughter by Montana's livestock department. Above all this is a personal odyssey; Leach shares his lusty interest for women in uniform, his faith in the power of wild nature and the spiritual paths of healing." -Doug Peacock

Keyword Index
Natural history - Yellowstone National Park.|Animals - Yellowstone National Park.|Outdoor life - Yellowstone National Park.|Yellowstone National Park - Description and travel.
Country of Publication
Number of Pages

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