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California Desert Byways: 68 of California's Best Backcountry Drives Spiral-bound – December 21, 2006
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After having traveled several of the roads described in Tony Huegel's California Desert Byways book, I can confidently say it is designed for both the casual 15%'ers and for the 80% who have never put their tires on dirt. Common sense, a well-maintained vehicle, and good tires will deliver a great trip. Any additional off-road knowledge required, including suggestions to make your off-road travel as worry free as possible, is described in the front section of the book prior to the Tour listings.
If you own a 4WD car/truck/SUV and consider yourself a novice or part-time off-roader, buy the book. If you want to explore some of the grand isolated nature of the California desert, a place with hypnotic appeal, buy the book. If you want to exercise your 4WD car/truck/SUV as it was intended to be used, buy the book. If you do I make you this promise: a little dirt on your treads will put a smile on your face.
Huegel frankly admits that in his younger days he preferred backpacking and mountain biking to taking his Toyota 4Runner out over barely marked routes and seeing what he could find. But as he aged and time and energy both seemed in short supply, touring backcountry routes has gradually become his preferred mode of travel. This book offers some practical advice (how to dig your vehicle out, and how much water you should have in reserve in case you need to dig your vehicle out), discusses the varying park rules and regulations for off (paved) road travel, and most importantly offers detailed route descriptions for 68 desert "tours." GPS coordinates in latitude and longitude are also included.
I have mixed feelings about this approach to desert touring. Like the author, I am starting to get on in years. Middle age and weight gain mean some activities just are not as easy as they used to be. And the desert is so vast, with so few destinations along paved routes, that I can appreciate what this book is trying to do: namely giving people access to our public lands that they might otherwise be excluded from. Indeed, I was pleased to find that many of Huegel's routes can be accessed in a passenger car. (I know because I have driven several of these routes in a fuel efficient compact.) To his credit, the author gives many options for exploration outside the car on almost every route he describes.
So in the final analysis, I am recommending this book. Huegel has done a great job of describing access routes for all parts of the California desert. The routes he describes range from easy dirt roads through the Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine to the historic Mojave Road. Other favorites Huegel includes are the Saline Valley and the Geology Tour in Joshua Tree. Literally anyone looking for new places to explore can find something of value in this book. But if you are going to make auto touring your primary means of desert exploration, be sure to take advantage of the many options Huegel includes for camping, hiking, and photography. And be sure to stick to the described routes. The desert has enough dangers without including getting lost or stuck away from any roads or help. And whatever you do, remember your car is a means to an end, not the end itself.
I purchased this book along with several others. I tend to refer to this one more than any other. GPS is great, but be sure to this book along for you outing.
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