Friday, July 23, 2010


I DON’T CARRY THE “BIBLE” WITH ME on the road. But I should. When passing a field of Checker Mallow and wondering the name, or when being halted by a crossing bear cub and mama and wondering about their range, or trying to determine whether the grove is of fir or pine, or doing a little forensic research on the butterfly wing pressed in death against my windshield, Tracy I. Storer and Robert L. Usinger’s Sierra Nevada Natural History is an indispensable tool. It sits in the Church of the Open Road’s reverence library along with an atlas, a sheaf of flat maps and a dictionary. On the road, I photograph what I’m curious about, maybe take a note or two and reference the volume as soon as I’m home. Since 1972, I’ve bought and worn out at least three copies.

One cannot travel the Open Road and not be captivated by the natural environment through which one passes. Scratching across the Sierra either on pavement or an unimproved route, history that precedes even the earliest man is on display. The tilted fault-block Sierra provides the canvas upon which all the colors and textures of life are painted. This volume explains why the silver granite is topped with black basalt or brown mudflow. It tells how glaciers cut through solid rock to leave mountain streams to plunge into the abyss. It speaks to the processes by which mountains are lifted, meadows are filled, plants get footholds and animals come to reside in very specific environs.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it drives me to explore ever deeper into the ridges and canyons, basins and ranges of the west. The forces that worked to create the wonder of our Sierra are the same ones that formed the Ruby Mountains in Nevada, the Sawtooths of Idaho, the Tetons in Wyoming and countless other ranges west of the 100th meridian. While I can reference a Forest Service or a Metsker map, or crack open a history book to understand the human element of all these locations, place names and industry, I must use something different to understand two essential “whys:” Why here and not there? Why then and not before?

SINCE 1963, Storer and Usinger’s book has guided, educated, opened, answered and explained the Sierra and the west to the curious. It is, indeed, the bible of the Church of the Open Road. Start wearing your copy out today.

© 2010
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. If you do not already have a copy, consider ordering one through your LOCAL, INDEPENDENT bookseller.

  2. Based on your title above I was a little hesitant to look....glad I did :-) I love those kinda 'bibles.'