Saturday, March 8, 2008

Two Great Oregon Hiking Guides

One day I recommended Russ Schneider’s “Hiking the Columbia River Gorge” to a customer at the bookstore. I told her my own copy was dog-eared and worn, filled with post-it notes and day-passes used as bookmarks. She asked if she could buy my copy.

Any Portlander, or Oregonian, for that matter, owes it to themselves to hike the Columbia River Gorge, and this is one of the best guides I've seen. It's almost the only one I use, detailing 50 hikes on both sides of the river from the close-in (Latourell Falls) to the distant (Catherine Creek Natural Arch). The selection covers easy strolls to accessible waterfalls to strenuous overnight backpacking trips. Schneider includes a good amount of introductory information, but the hike descriptions are what make this book shine. Each hike includes information on difficulty, distance, trail conditions, trails users, best season, elevation gains, maps and fees, and contacts. Driving directions are clear, maps and elevation charts are provided for every hike, and a mile by mile summary is always included. Lengthy descriptions of the hike itself round out the wealth of information. Depending on the hike, you’ll learn about the forest and the views, water sources and stream crossings, lakes and fishing, geology and natural history, and helpful tips for making your adventure complete. The only downsides to this book are the lack of color pictures (so take your own!) and the lack of a comprehensive map that shows how so many of these trails intersect. After a while, you’ll have enough experience in the Gorge to start planning combination hikes that aren’t included in any book. I recommend a Green Trails map or two in conjunction with Schneider's book.

Another great guide is Doug Lorain’s "100 Classic Hikes in Oregon.” This absolutely gorgeous book won a National Outdoor Book Award, is a torture to read in the rainy season, and is almost indispensable in the summer. It is one of the few books with good information on hiking the Wallowas, and the hike selections are often innovative and unavailable in other guide books. Lavishly illustrated with beautiful color photographs and superb full-color topographic maps by Moore Creative Designs, this book will make your mouth water and your feet itch for the trail. If it doesn't, check your pulse. Most likely, you’re asleep or dead. Rare is the book that makes you want to ignore the “best season” advice and head out immediately. Lorain has helpfully divided the state into regions and provides information on each area before describing each hike down to the yard. The elevation/relief graphs help plot distance and time when choosing campsites, and the trail descriptions provide everything else you need, including side-trips and environmental concerns such as the best time to cross certain creeks, fire regulations, and peak seasons for flower and mosquito blooming. If only all hiking guides were this good...

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