I was taught American history from east to west. Perhaps, as a result, my own compass has always tended to point in a northwesterly direction. The day after graduating from college in Minnesota, I packed a rental car full of all my possessions and drove to California. I spent the next five years exploring the Sierra Nevada Mountains, following in the well-trodden footsteps of many before me. In 2001, while hiking from Mexico to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail, I read a book about the history of Yosemite National Park that challenged many of the stories I had learned as a child....