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Day Hiking: Mount Rainier

Author : Dan Nelson
Published : 2008-03-11

Timing is everything in the publishing world. Sometimes it's a help, sometimes a hindrance. In the case of a new hiking guide to the trails of Mount Rainier National Park, the November 2006 storms that ravaged the park were a tad untimely.

Book projects usually take at least a year to move from computer monitor to bookstore, sometimes longer, and the storms left Dan Nelson, author of Day Hiking: Mount Rainier, at the mercy of editorial and production schedules.

Mr. Nelson, whose words are supported by Alan Bauer's black-and-white and color photographs, comes to the project with nearly 20 years of backcountry experience in Rainier. That perspective comes into play at times with some of the trails that were impacted by the storms.

However, since the book was in the last throes of production when the storms hit, the author didn't have much opportunity to explain how the landscape was changed. For instance, at the end of the narrative on the Emmons Glacier View hike he simply notes that, This trail was severely damaged in the November 2006 floods. As this book went to press, this trail was relocated through rough terrain. Check with the park for the current status of this trail.

As with Day Hiking: North Cascades,, this book won't take up much space on your bookshelf or day pack. It features 70 hikes in a to-the-point fashion that gets you to the trailhead, rates the difficulty of the hike, gives the basics (mileage, elevation gain, and best season), and provides both a rudimentary map of the hike and GPS coordinates.

That said, Mr. Nelson's short introductions to each hike -- such as this one leading into the Glacier Basin hike -- are little gems that sum up why you should hit the trail:

Your time is running out. Without radical changes in global practices, glaciers could disappear entirely in the Lower 48 states, and the ice rivers on Mount Rainier are already in full retreat. Fortunately, we can still see mighty ice sheets and even get up-close and personal with them. This trail ascends the upper reaches of the White River Valley, crawling through scraggly forest and craggy moraines -- ridges of rock pushed aside by the moving glaciers. If you have the skill and the time, you can scramble up the bottom section of a climber's trail to reach the ice of Inter Glacier.

That said, with only three-four paragraphs of on-the-ground narrative per trail, you won't have perhaps as much description as you might prefer if you're new to Rainier and a bit uncertain about its topography. But with some common sense, a map, compass, and GPS unit, this book will help you come to understand and appreciate the park's landscape.

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