Top positive review
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Like a Fine Wine...
on March 4, 2012
This book just keeps getting better with age. Now in its ninth edition, California Hiking by Ann Marie Brown and Tom Stienstra is simply the most popular, most comprehensive, and in this edition, the most accurate volume of its kind. Hiking guidebooks almost never see nine editions, but this one has a loyal following and deserves a wide readership. Why? Because no matter where you are in the Golden State, this book will lead you to some spectacular hikes close by.
In all editions since 2002, California Hiking is organized by regions. Chapters run from the northern part of the state (Redwood Empire) to the southern deserts. Each chapter features a set of maps to help you locate trailheads, and each also highlights the authors' favorite hikes found in that chapter. As might be expected, some of these chapters are more extensive than others. The chapter on the greater San Francisco Bay area, with its profusion of national, state, and local parks, includes 209 different routes, nearly one fifth of the total hikes in the book. Lake Tahoe, the southern Sierra, including Sequoia and Kings Canyon, and Yosemite also receive a lot of attention. But even the shorter chapters include some real gems. The coastal hikes in Monterrey, Big Sur, and Santa Barbara are some of the best trails in the state. I have used this book for years to plan my vacations and will continue to do so in the future.
In this new (2012) edition, California Hiking features 1,014 hikes of varying difficulty. Some are short leg stretchers of a quarter of a mile. Others are long one way treks of up to 112 miles. The average hike is about 7 miles. Many of these hikes were found in earlier editions of the book, but this edition includes numerous updates to trail mileages and directions as some of the trails have been rerouted. And of course some trails are no longer listed. Gone is Point Bonita Lighthouse, which is no longer open to the public due to an unsafe walkway. The National Park Service will hopefully build a new one, but in the meantime, it has been replaced by other trails. The Pioneer History Trail at Benbow Lake State Recreation Area is also no longer listed. At this point, only those actually camping in the park can enjoy it, and the park is only open part of the year. On the other hand, this edition features many new hikes. Among these are the spectacular James Irvine trail in Prarie Creek Redwoods State Park and several new waterfall hikes, including two in San Diego County. In my opinion, the new hikes are on the whole better than the ones they replace.
Perhaps the biggest change in the 2012 edition of California Hiking is the elimination of the chapter on Death Valley. In previous editions, it was one of the shortest chapters in the book. Death Valley hikes are still included, however, in an expanded southern deserts chapter that also features several hikes in Anza Borrego State Park, including a new route in a slot canyon. The chapter on San Diego county has also been extensively reworked, and the results are spectacular. Several hikes which had been closed due to fires in years past are now reopened, and new hikes are also listed. I personally was pleased to see that Hot Springs Mountain is again open. The highest point in San Diego County was closed to public use for many years. Considering all the changes, the chapter on San Diego is now one of the best in the book.
Brown and Stienstra's California Hiking is the bible of California hikers. I probably have spent more time reading this book (in all of its editions) than any other title in any genre. Like many hikers, I want to complete all the trails described in the book. It is a lifetime project, but then this book is the result of a lifetime of effort by both authors. It is well worth the price and comes highly recommended.