Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America’s National Parks

Published on: August 20, 2016 | Last Updated on October 27, 2016


Lassoing the Sun CoverCongratulations to giveaway winner, Michael Lamott Mason

…An author interview and chance to win your own copy of Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America’s National Parks

This year (2016) commemorates the 100th anniversary of the National Park System. Whether you have already fallen in love with America’s National Parks or simply want to learn more about these national treasures, you’ll enjoy reading journalist Mark Wood’s new book.

In Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America’s National Parks (Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press; June 2016), Woods recalls the childhood summers when he, his parents, and two sisters piled into their family station wagon to explore America’s national parks.

On the eve of turning fifty and suffering some burnout, Woods (a Metro Columnist for the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, Florida) decided to reconnect with the great outdoors and spend an entire year visiting our national parks.

“In this remarkable journey, Mark Woods captures the essence of our National Parks: their serenity and majesty, complexity and vitality–and their power to heal,” wrote documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.

Mark Woods agreed to answer several questions about his experience for the readers of More Time To Travel. His publisher, Thomas Dunne Books, graciously agreed to give away one copy of the hardcover book, Lassoing the Sun, to a lucky reader.


To be eligible to win a copy of Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America’s National Parks, leave a brief comment in the section after the interview explaining why you would like to read the book.


  • One winner will be randomly selected.
  • Sorry. Limited to U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses only.
  • All submissions must be submitted before midnight, August 31, 2016 (PST).


Author Mark Woods

Author Mark Woods

A year in one’s life is a substantial investment of time, what factors convinced you to make that commitment? 

I was fortunate enough to be the recipient of the Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship. The award allowed me to take a sabbatical from my regular job, columnist at the Florida Times-Union, and devote a year to working on my idea of a dream assignment: the future of the national parks.

How did you arrange the logistics of setting aside time for your visits and maintaining a life at home?

My wife was working and my daughter was in school. So I didn’t just hop in a campervan, hit the road and leave them for a year. My plan was to spend at least a week each month at a different park, then return home to Florida. But when my mom was diagnosed with an inoperable cancer in February of that year, I also ended up traveling frequently to Arizona. She loved the national parks and wanted me to continue with my plans. And for the most part, I did. She died at the midpoint of that year, June 30. Some people have said that my book is a gift to her. I look at it the other way around – its one last gift from her and my dad to me.

How did your childhood experiences influence the decision to make this journey?  

I turned 50 the year I applied for the fellowship. Even before that, I had plans to go to a national park. When my two sisters and my mom asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate my birthday, I decided I wanted all of us to go to Redwood National and State Parks, one of the first national parks I went to as a child. Some of my strongest childhood memories are of family trips to parks, piling in the station wagon, driving to entrances with those familiar brown signs. I wanted my daughter, who was about the same age I was when I first went to Redwood, to have a similar experience.

Can you describe a recent experience during your stay that was most meaningful? 

My mom had a tradition of writing haiku in the sand. When my daughter turned 12 – the age my mom planned to take each of her grandchildren on a trip – I took her to Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia. For part of the trip, my daughter complained and grumbled. But at one point on the beach, her mood shifted and she did something that made it all worthwhile. Without prompting, she wrote haiku in the sand.

How many parks have you visited in total? How did you choose the ones you featured in the book? If you could only visit one, which one would it be and why? 

I’ve visited about 75 of the 412 National Park Service sites, including 24 of the 59 National Parks.

For the book, my goal wasn’t to visit the most parks or even the most beautiful ones. I wanted to explore 12 parks, each one symbolizing a different issue facing the parks in the future. I included iconic parks such as Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon. But I also included an urban park (Gateway National Recreation Area in New York City) and a park created to remember a piece of modern history (Flight 93 National Memorial). I wanted a mix of geography and climate. I started the year with a New Year’s Day sunrise in Maine’s Acadia National Park and ended it with a New Year’s Eve sunset in Hawaii’s Haleakala National Park – a place where the local mythology involves a son trying to extend the day, lassoing the sun for his mother.

It’s almost impossible to pick just one. But if forced to, I probably would go with the Grand Canyon. It’s a park I keep going back to, always taking in the view from the rim but inevitably heading into the canyon. It’s a place that makes me and my life feel incredibly small – and this is an oddly comforting feeling, one that forces me to relax and enjoy the moment.

Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America’s National Parks is available in print and on Kindle at

  • Reply
    Becca A
    August 20, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    I would love to read about how the magic of the parks came to be.

  • Reply
    Suzanne Fluhr
    August 21, 2016 at 9:38 am

    The author carried out one of my fantasies to visit more of our national parks. I share his fondness for the Grand Canyon, but each oak had its own spirit.

  • Reply
    Michael Lamott Mason
    August 28, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    Hello Ms. Levine. Besides being an inveterate hiker, budding travel writer, and a great respecter of the Great Outdoors, I am a Professional Librarian, currently a Branch Manager, so I would read Mr. Woods’ book cover-to-cover with active interest then add it to the circulating collection prominently displayed, thereafter sharing my review with other potential readers.

  • Reply
    Jennifer H.
    August 31, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    I would like this book. I am interested in the National Parks.

  • Reply
    August 31, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    I would like it. National parks are beautiful.

  • Reply
    John H.
    August 31, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    Cool Giveaway! I like to read. Count me in!

  • Reply
    September 14, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    I would like to read more about our Country’s beautiful National Parks. I have visited several and plan to visit many more. thanks

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