Some hiking books sit on the bookshelf looking brand new. But the best ones are battered, with some or several pages that are earmarked or are so often referenced that the book automatically opens to those well-used pages.
Two of my John Soares’ hiking guides, “75 Hikes in California’s Lassen Park & Mount Shasta Regions,” and “100 Classic Hikes in Northern California,” show the wear and tear of being often read.
Soares’ newest guidebook, “Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions,” figures to be well worn in coming months.
“Day Hiking” features 125 hikes in Northern and far Northern California, including eight in Lava Beds National Monument along with one at the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges headquarters and another on Sheepy Ridge.
Most are intended as day hikes, but Soares also says many can be done as multi-day backpacks, including places like the Marble Mountains, Trinity Alps and Russian wildernesses, all within an easy drive from the Klamath Basin.
Among the three wildernesses, he confesses to preferring the Russian, partly because of its beauty and variety of offerings, and more so because of its relative isolation.
“People tend to go the Trinity Alps or the Marble Mountain and the Russian tends to get overlooked,” he says of the 12,000 acre area, which is known for having 17 species of conifers within a square mile, beautiful lakes and a chunk of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Soares regards Lassen Volcanic National Park as another too infrequently visited treasure. While the hike up Lassen Peak is the prime attraction, he also champions Brokeoff Mountain, Kings Creek Falls and Cinder Cone as excellent hikes that offer views with “1 percent of the hikers on Lassen Peak.”
He’s also passionate about Mount Eddy and the Deadfall Lakes, a frequent destination for day hikers through the Happy Trails Meet-Up group. Soares touts the diversity, from old growth red fir forests to open hillsides lush with seasonal varieties of wildflowers, excellent swimming and camping at the lakes and its eye-popping views of Mount Shasta.
When researching for new or updating books — “100 Classic Hikes in Northern California” is in its fourth edition — Soares spends three or four months retracing and exploring new trails. In “Day Hiking,” for example, “Many of the hikes in the book I’ve done time and time again.”
Up close research
To provide a sense of place, he carries a small digital voice recorder. “Whenever I see something I think will be interest, I turn it on,” explaining he records his thoughts and impressions about things like hiking through stands of beautiful Shasta red fir or orange and areas with rust colored metamorphic rocks.
“I just really pay attention to my surroundings, what I find most attractive. I try to use the five senses” to, for example, savor the sound of tumbling waterfalls or appreciate the scent of wildflowers. His goal is to find “the things that are most likely to be attractive to other people.”
Soares has a master’s degree in political science but says his love for hiking and writing led to an early hiking guide, which led to working with The Mountaineers Books on the first edition of “100 Classic Hikes” and following hiking guides. It’s a part-time pursuit. He’s taught part-time at community colleges and, since the 1990s, has been a freelance writer, not only writing books but also annual reports for various businesses and non-profit organizations.
While he often hikes with others, “I wind up doing most of it alone because I go for three or five or seven days.” Hiking alone also triggers those five senses — taste, smell, touch, sight and hearing. “I’m much more aware of my surroundings.”
The details are important
Soares translates those senses, and necessary facts, in his books, which also include detailed topo maps and data on difficulty, distance, elevation and recommended seasons.
And while he’s excited about his new book, “Day Hiking,” Soares is also anticipating another guidebook due out next spring, “Hiking the Parks: Redwood National and State Parks.” Along with 38 hikes, it will offer information on things like kayaking, mountain biking and places with beautiful views.
That’s next year. For now Soares’ goal is promoting “Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions.” For readers, it’s making the book well-used and crinkly.