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Afoot and Afield: Orange County: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide Paperback – January 13, 2015
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But the biggest change to the book is not within the pages at all. Harris has for years been developing a free hiking app, etrails, which is designed predominantly for Pacific Crest Trail hikers. The app includes route descriptions, embedded topo maps, and the option, if you want to seriously cut into your iPhone's battery life of locating yourself on route. It is a nice feature of for the PCT, though that route is fairly well signed. But in his most recent update, Harris added a brief Orange County section that mirrors the book. Descriptions are limited, and you are still well advised to buy the book. But many Orange County trails, especially in the more urbanized areas, are interlaced with a slew of side routes, use paths, etc. And in places where trails are disconnected and loops require short meanders on surface streets the satellite mapping feature of the app that accompanies this book is particularly valuable. As I was field testing the new edition, I decided to hike the Back Bay Loop, nearly 10 miles, around Newport Bay. It was beautiful, but the route description in the book was fairly complicated, and the variety of paths were only incompletely signed. I found the mapping feature of the accompanying app absolutely invaluable while hiking. Finally the app has the added benefit of giving precise mileage (to the nearest tenth) while many hikes in the book simply round to the nearest whole mile in the written description.
The bottom line then is that if you live in or near Organge County, or are willing to drive a bit to get some spectacular spring coastal walking, this is the book to get. Harris is faithful to the book format that made Jerry Schad's Affoot and Afield series such a popular collection for day hikers in Southern California. His additions to the book and the accompanying latest etrails app make this a great find for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts in the area of Orange County.
Most of the changes are along the Orange County coastline where Schad has added 8 new hikes. This is a big plus for coastal walkers and reflects a real commitment on the part of residents of Orange County to preserve their beautiful coastline. The other area receiving lots of additional coverage is the Santa Rosa Ecological Reserve. This place is an absolute hikers' mecca, especially in the spring when wildflowers abound. This edition triples the number of hikes found in previous editions.
In terms of layout, maps are a little clearer than previously and pages for each region of Orange County are tabbed. This will surely help in locating nice walks close by. Gone, however, are the little icons that made the Afoot and Afield guides so distinctive. I found these useful in trip planning and was sorry to see them go.
On the whole, this is an excellent guide for those seeking a wilderness experience in what has to be one of the most urbanized areas in the Western US. I've done over 1/3 of the hikes described and am looking forward to doing more. This is truly the best of Orange County and this book deserves extended sales.
Another feature I like is that the guide gives you information on the trail use and the best times. The trail use tells you whether that trail is good for kids, dogs, mountain bikes, horses, etc. And the best times gives you an idea of what the best time of year is to take that particular hike (e.g. November through May).
The maps in the book seem pretty good. They could be better, but I think they get the job done, particularly for experienced hikers. There is an overall map that breaks down the different areas of Orange County, which correspond to different chapters. Then, each chapter has its own map that shows all of the different hikes within that chapter. I would like to see a map of each individual hike, but I suppose that would make the book a lot longer. They do reference USGS maps for each hike that are either optional or recommended. For a particularly difficult or long hike, it would be good to get those maps, but for most hikes, you will be just fine without them.
What I really like are the descriptions. Each hike has a narrative that gives you some background on the area, and takes you through each point in the hike. It's very informative and helpful.
Overall, this is an excellent book and reference for Orange County hiking. I would highly recommend it for avid hikers, families, and beginners alike. Enjoy!