Saturday, July 14, 2012

Discover the Adirondacks guidebook review

I recently received a review copy of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s new Discover the Adirondacks book, a guide to 50 of the best hikes, pedals and paddles in the Adirondacks.

Targeted primarily at readers who are becoming acquainted with the outdoor recreational opportunities of the Adirondacks, Discover’s author, Peter Kick, has done a fine job of selecting some of the best – albeit most popular – adventures. Any such “best of” list is subjective by nature, and while one might quibble over which hikes or paddles made the cut (c’mon, no Blue Ledges? Why not Haystack instead of Marcy?), the outings selected for the book represent an excellent sampling of the range of the opportunities available within the Park.

Having done a good three dozen or so of the outings myself over the years – some recently, like Baxter Mountain last weekend, others as far back as twenty years ago – I can attest that Discover the Adirondacks more than satisfies the most important criteria for any guidebook: accuracy. But beyond the basics of trail mileages and descriptions, trailhead locations, difficulty ratings and so forth, Discover includes a collection of 10 well written, interesting Adirondack nature and history essays. These short essays are interspersed throughout the guidebook and cover topics such as the alpine zone of the High Peaks, the disastrous forest fires of the early 1900s, loons, tuberculosis and the Trudeau Institute.

I took Discover the Adirondacks with me last weekend, when the kids and I hiked Baxter Mountain.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.
As the author states in the book's introduction, readers of Discover the Adirondacks will want to use the guidebook in conjunction with a detailed topographic trail map such as National Geographic's Trails Illustrated High Peaks Trail Map. Although the line maps included in the book are accurate, they do not show elevation contours and they are limited in the area they cover. A hiker on Baxter Mountain, for example, would be unable to identify surrounding peaks from the map included in the book for that hike. Also, it goes almost without saying that Discover is not a comprehensive guide to all of the hiking trails in the Park. The Adirondack Mountain Club’s Adirondack Trails guidebook series and Wild River Press’ Discover the Adirondacks guidebook series are still the best comprehensive trail guides. And yes, the title of Discover the Adirondacks (part of a larger AMC Discover… series) is confusingly similar to the titles in Wild Press’ guidebook series. However the AMC publication and the Wild Press series each serve different audiences, fill different niches.

One more thing. Although the AMC press release announcing Discover the Adirondacks (linked above) refers to the book as a "four-season guide," the only reference to ski or snowshoe trips is in the Trip Planner table, where a skier or snowshoe icon is shown on some outings deemed to be suitable for winter. Any "best of" list covering winter would certainly include... well, I'll let someone else determine what should be on that list.

Discover the Adirondacks, by Peter Kick, is available at many local bookstores and outdoor gear retailers. The book can also be ordered directly from the Appalachian Mountain Club.

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