Before I even started reading about the mechanics of Hiking Alaska, I was hooked. The newest Falcon Guides resource for hoofing it around the 49th state is pretty, chock-full of information, and, perhaps most important, is written by a real, live Alaskan.
Why is this important? Hiking anywhere is an intimate experience, but possibly more so in Alaska, where the dance between wildlife, terrain, and weather is so interwoven that to discount one means to discount them all. Author Mollie Foster, an editor, photographer, and avid hiker, is, as the introduction explains, passionate about exploring by human power, and where better to jump headlong into this form of transportation than Alaska?
As with all guides published by Falcon, this Alaska edition has street cred, especially as Foster explains in detail the ins and outs one must know regarding hiking the Last Frontier’s trails, be they popular or remote. The book’s legends and icons are extremely helpful, especially the featured routes and topographical distance and elevation. Where many books rely upon the storyteller’s subjective impression to describe paths, Foster’s guide goes one step further with images, graphs, and wayfinding tools that leave little doubt, something this parent appreciates.
Divided into sections (mostly well-known geographic areas but sometimes cities), Hiking Alaska gives the reader a clear expectation of the trail and a bit of insight into the landscape around it. Looking for a beach? How about lots of wildlife (or little)? Maybe you have kids and need a good place to test out the stamina of little legs? Foster lists it all, including full-color photographs that will make you want to suit up, pack a few snacks, and hit the road right now.
Excerpt: “Chugach State Park, the wild park right out of Anchorage’s back door, is the third largest park in the country, smaller only than the western Alaska’s Wood-Tikchik State Park and California’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. From coast to lush forest to mountain peak and glacier, Chugach’s half a million acres stretch over 60 miles of the western end of the Chugach Mountains, possibly America’s least-known major mountain range. The park includes fifteen major watersheds, seventy lakes, fifty glaciers, and thirteen peaks over 7,000 feet, not a mean feat considering that the western boundary is just above sea level. Chugach is a hiking wonderland, featuring hundreds of miles of trails and routes through incredible mountains.”
Are you an Alaska parent looking for a hiking guide featuring new trails beyond the “usual”? This guide lists many trails about which I was unfamiliar, and with a tween-almost-teen interested in higher alpine adventuring, I am happy to add this book to my arsenal of resources.
Or, perhaps, you are in the planning stage of an Alaska vacation and have hiking high on the list of activities. A comforting aspect of Hiking Alaska is the truly comprehensive, practical nature of information; everything from bear and moose safety to packing and outdoor ethics is covered in the preface section, making the book a helpful bible of everything, or nearly everything, an anxious but enthusiastic Alaska hiking visitor needs to know.
Whether you have lived in Alaska for decades or intend to visit its rugged landscape for only a week, Hiking Alaska is a tool to make your experience better, and you a better hiker. Isn’t that worth it?