One of the trickiest things about hiking involves knowing where to go. Many of the best hikes are in remote, hard-to-find places that would remain obscure without some kind of directive resource. Furthermore, if you were to arrive in one of these remote, obscure places, there’s a good chance that you wouldn’t know where to go without some sort of map. In order to have really great hiking experiences, you have to be prepared, like the Boy Scouts suggest.
Having a vast array of resources at your fingertips can not only expand the number of hikes you have available, it can deepen your enjoyment of all hikes, be they small and local or long and remote. Not only do resources help you find your way, they can explain geologic features, describe and identify plants, trees, and animals, and explain some of the local history involved in a place.
The following list represents some of my favorite hiking resources. Included here are books, websites, and blogs. Some of them are well-known field guides. Some of them are personal blogs. I’ve gained something from every one of them, and they can all lead you to having a more enjoyable hiking experience.
This is what Wikipedia has to say about Jerry Schad:
In addition to San Diego County, Schad thoroughly explored Orange and Los Angeles Counties as well. The results represent a magnum opus on coastal Southern California hiking that includes just about every hike you can take from the Mexico border to Lake Piru in Northern Los Angeles County. These books are masterpieces of hiking literature. Each hike write-up presents, in prose far terser than mine will ever be, a description of the hike, where it goes, what it features, and things to be aware of. It has quick information such as distance, elevation, time, difficulty – all things that I emulate here. Additionally, each write-up provides directions on how to get to the trailhead, often including special considerations.
The beauty of these books is that they include everything. If you’re accustomed to a certain region, you may not know that you can go on great hikes twenty minutes west. Or, if you do know this, you may have no idea where to go. A half-hour’s perusal of any one of these books will leave you with numerous ideas on where to take your next hike (or next twenty hikes). It is the perfect cure for anybody who has grown bored with their usual haunts.
A few cons: the maps in these books are general at best. A good topo (think Tom Harrison maps) map is recommended for anything really serious. Also, many of Schad’s trips may not be trips you want to stick to. It’s a great jumping off point if you’re more adventurous. But, if you want to stick to the guide, you’ll have no problem enjoying what’s presented.
This website and the connected app allow people to share various hikes that they have done by not only allowing them to create write-ups but also by posting GPS tracks that show exactly where the trip goes. If you have the app, you can track a hike, write a description, attach photographs, publish it to the web, and share it with the world. Sure, this leads to a lot of chaff, but if you know how to ask the right questions in the query field, you can turn up hike write-ups complete with pictures, tracks, detailed descriptions, warnings, and info about red tape. While researching hikes on Mt. Baldy, I came across the idea of the “Six-Pack of Peaks,” which is an informal collection of hikes designed to progressively train the hiker for major hikes at altitude, such as Mt. Whitney. This “Six Pack” concept became the basis for a major goal, and I will spend the next month climbing peaks included on the list.
One of the other great uses of this app and website is that it will, through GPS tracking, give you the distance and altitude information for your hikes. This wealth of detail allows you to keep track of what you’ve actually done with a fair amount of accuracy. Sure, it doesn’t always work well when the reception is poor, but it’s a good tool to have if you’re not too far afield.
3. The National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Trees of North America
This fantastic volume lists all of the common trees found in North America. It lists them by leaf type (needle-like, composite leaves, scale-like leaves, etc), and then further subdivides according to species. For example, needle-like trees include all species of pines, firs, hemlocks, spruces, yews, a few cypresses, each of which is described according to height, age, identifying markings, leaf type, fruit or cone type, and other distinguishing features. It includes trees in their native ranges, typically organized from east to west, and it even includes common or unusual ornamentals an introduced trees like eucalyptus, gingko biloba Italian cypress, and Japanese maple. The book even includes some species of cactus and chaparral that can attain tree-like proportions, such as saguaro, manzanita, and ribbonwood. Finally, the book describes various ecological systems and regions in which different types of trees are found, as well as why those regions and systems are they way they are.
This exhaustive manual is a must for anybody that has any interest in the trees around them. For me, a self-professed tree nut, I rarely ever venture into a new region without bringing this book along to identify the trees. As a result, I know exactly what’s around me on any given hike, and, in knowing the trees around me better, I feel like I am more connected to the environment around me, thus deepening my experience.
Summitpost is an online resource for mountain climbers that offers descriptions of peaks by range and includes information about the geologic make-up of ranges and peaks, routes to the top, images, articles, trip reports, and information about warnings and red tape. It also has a social networking aspect to it, through which you can meet other hikers to take on specific peaks, general training, or specific backpacking trips. The resources found here can be invaluable. Today, when I went to the homepage, I found articles on a traverse of the White Mountains, a weekend on Mittellegi, a peak in the Swiss Alps, snow shoeing on Red Mountain in Washington, drinking water in the backcountry, Anaerobic conditions and muscle pain, and an article on mountain climber Rafaelle Carlesso.
Basically, if it’s about mountain climbing, you can, with a bit of digging, find it here.
5. Modern Hiker
This blog celebrates the multitude of great hiking opportunities in the Los Angeles area. Most people don’t connect great hiking with Los Angeles, which, afterall is a metro area of over 15,000,000 people. However, Los Angeles contains numerous peaks over 8,000′, as well as three very popular destinations over 10,000′ known as the three saints – Mt. San Antonio, Mt. San Jacinto, and Mt. San Gorgonio. Additionally, Los Angeles is bordered by the Transverse Ranges to the north and west (San Bernadinos, San Gabriels, and Santa Monicas, to name a few) the peninsular ranges to the east and south (Santa Anas and San Jacintos), the ocean to the west and south, and a number of geographic features within the city itself. In fact, Los Angeles is the rare urban area that is actually bisected by a mountain range where the Santa Monica Mountains divide Los Angeles from the San Fernando Valley.
This blog, written by Casey Schreiner, covers a great deal of that, providing a number of hiking write-ups that I have, in many ways, modeled my own after. In fact, I learned about many of the hikes I’ve taken over the years – Sandstone Peak, Mishe Mokwa, Mt. Lukens, Santa Anita Canyon – from this blog, and, without it, my sense of adventure and ability to seek out new hiking options may not have developed as fully or as quickly.
I owe this blog and blogger a huge debt.
6. 100 Peaks
After I began to date Kelly and started contemplating hikes in San Diego, I started digging around for resources. One of the first was an outdated version of Afoot and Afield in San Diego. The second was 100 Peaks, a blog about a quest similar to mine in which the writer is attempting to climb 100 peaks in San Diego and Santa Barbara County.
After perusing this site, I discovered a number of great peaks to climb, conveniently listed and presented on one page with all of the relevant information, including locations, distance, elevation, and maps. I’ve since accomplished a fair number of these peaks, even though my focus is more on distance.
Also worth checking out is the facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/100peaks, which contains a more immediate and personal record of what he’s doing.
Sad thing – I dug around for 5 minutes, and either because it’s not up or I’m inept, I could not find his name. At any rate, a great site that does for San Diego hiking what Modern Hiker does for LA hiking.
7. The Hike Guy
Kolby Kirk first caught my attention when I saw his video showing his PCT adventure in 3 minutes. This video, which chronicles each day of his trip in a single, daily snapshot and a few brief video clips, allows you to watch Kolby shed weight, grow an epic beard, play host to a friendly butterfly, and dance to Vampire Weekend, among other things. A visit to this site is worth it for the video alone, since that video never fails to make me want to climb up a mountain.
But that’s not all it’s about. Like me, The Hike Guy likes to set goals, such as hiking the PCT. And he follows through with them, much to my admiration. Additionally, he keeps beautiful hand-written and hand-drawn journals that make me envious of his patience and skill, even though I know pictures and typing are more suitable for my personality. It’s a great site to explore, and it’s always inspiring to know somebody is out there setting epic goals and following through on them. It encourages me to keep it up with my own.
Other resources worth checking out include:
The National Parks – linking you to camping, trail, map, permit, and condition information for all of the national parks.
Friends of Palomar – a non-profit group attempting to raise funds to keep Palomar Mountain State Park open.
Reserve America – a resource for finding and reserving campgrounds for car camping
Yosemite Hikes – a thorough and irreverent collection of trail write-ups in Yosemite Park. Very funny and informative.
Roam-o-Rama – Started by Jerry Schad, these weekly column is a grab-bag of hikes around San Diego.
May: 44.1 Miles
Year-to-Date: 551.4 Miles