Ramble On

Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Review: Best Easy Day Hikes Shenandoah National Park

I took a look at the Amazon page for the Easy Day Hikes book I use for some of my hikes - there wasn't a review.  So I edited an old post into one and posted it there.  It's reproduced in full below - also included is a link to the Amazon page for the book.  Enjoy - and if you happen to visit that page, go ahead and check that my review was helpful if you found it was...
While planning a Shenandoah National Park day hike recently I found the new edition of a favorite guidebook, "Best Easy Day Hikes Shenandoah National Park," by Bert and Jane Gildart, which was published in 2011. This is the 4th edition. Since buying a country home in Luray, near the Park's headquarters, I had used the 3rd edition as a guide and hiked each of the 26 routes to familiarize myself with the park. I also kept copies of the little book in Luray and at home in the DC area.

On first review of the new edition, the major difference is the inclusion of 27 hikes, one more than were in the old edition. One of the old hikes was replaced, so there are two new routes in the book. A district by district comparison reveals that there are now 6 hikes in the North District, where there were five; there are 15 in the Central District, the same as before; and there are 6 in the South District, the same number as were in the 3rd edition.

The additional hike in the North District is Fort Windham Rocks, a 0.8 mile out-and-back without much climbing. In the Central District, a second route to the peak at Mary's Rock has been added: "Mary's Rock South," a shorter 2.6 mile out-and-back with less elevation gain than the traditional "Mary's Rock North" route. The entry that combined Betty's Rock and Crescent Rock was deleted from the Central District, and the South District list remains the same.

Shenandoah National Park used to be covered by farms. Nature's inevitable reclamation is one of the features of the Park experience, so the trails change. The Gildarts acknowledge this sometimes with a note that an old viewpoint might now be obscured by a new forest, or they mention unusual flora or fauna that has re-established itself, offering the visitor a chance at discovery in addition to the wonderful views from Skyline Drive.

One section that I enjoy referring to is the list that ranks the hikes from easiest to most challenging. I have my favorites on this list, and at the same time, if the choice were mine, there are a few I might exchange for others - I'm sure I'm not alone in this among those who know the Park well. Despite that exception, this guide has always proven useful to me when I am planning adventures in the Park, and I'm very happy to see that it has been updated.

Whether you are looking to experience an interpretive nature trail, to visit a waterfall or vista, or to check out some of the places where "the mountain people" used to live, you'll find this book a good place to start. It's a handy guidebook well worth the price. For myself, I'm looking forward to checking off the new routes that were added in the 4th edition.


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