Alpine Sierra Trailblazer Guide: Slip Your Itchy Travel Feet into Hiking Boots

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While the United States has some of the world’s most diverse and rich areas for nature lovers, most hikers and trekkers would probably agree that the Sierra Nevada is one of the most strikingly beautiful areas in the country. Those looking for active travel options throughout Lake Tahoe and Yosemite will be rewarded with some amazingly majestic landscapes that can take your breath away.

Thankfully, there are quite a few resources that can help you make the most out of your next nature trek to this part of the country. And our favorite book reviewer, Vera Marie Badertscher from A Traveler’s Library,  tells us how to make the most out of your visit to this paradise with a review of an informative guide written by Jerry and Jeanine Sprout, Alpine Sierra Trailblazer Guide.

Twenty Lakes Basin
The stunning Twenty Lakes Basin is just outside of Yosemite National Park.

The only thing more amazing than the detail in the Trailblazer Guides is the realization that Jerry and Janine Sprout have written guides for MANY locations–not just one. Really, reading the Alpine Sierra Trailblazer, you would think that they have spent a lifetime exploring the Sierra Nevadas from Yosemite to Lake Tahoe.

As in their guide to the Big Island of Hawaii, reviewed here earlier, the Sprouts concentrate on active travel that will appeal to the Baby Boomer traveler. The subtitle of the Alpine Sierra Trailblazer lays it out–”Where to Hike, Ski, Bike, Fish, Drive from Tahoe to Yosemite.” In truth, although I appreciated the drive portion, it is only 22 pages out of 230, so the book is definitely tilted toward the other activities—particularly hiking.

Did you ever have the experience of getting to a trailhead and plunging down the trail in great expectation, only to encounter difficulties you had no idea you were going to face. Or even worse, in my opinion, find that you’re on a boring trail that winds across the same, same scenery forever?

View from Mt. Watkins, Yosemite National Park
View from Mt. Watkins. Yosemite Trailblazers have the best seat in the house!

No danger of those disappointments if you’re using the Trailblazer guide. The Sprouts, with their lively presentation, tell you the best place to park, what highlights to look for on the trail, where the difficult parts are (if there are any), where to lift your eyes from the path and gaze on the scenery and whether you should take along your fishing pole. They even give you advice on what season of the year will be best, what flowers and trees to look for and whether you’ll be isolated or running into other hikers. If you’re a history buff, you’ll enjoy their forays into the interesting history of these trails, from Snowshoe Thompson, who trekked across mountains to deliver mail before the railroads, to trails used by covered wagons, silver and gold miners and outlaws.

Black and white photos give you an idea of what you’ll be seeing in any area, and maps are plentiful and detailed.

As with their other books, they include a short section of suggestions for family hikes and activities, and a break-down of all the hikes in the region according to your particular interests, from stream-watching, to lakes to mountain peaks and from spring wildflower watching to winter snowshoeing.

Tioga Pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains
Tioga Pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

You’ll want another book to supplement their short list of accommodations and eating places, but they do give a solid list of campgrounds, and include camping information in the descriptions of longer hikes.

All of the specific hike-by-hike and activity-by-activity information is wonderful, but I have to admit that my favorite part of the book is the light-hearted but solid “Free Hiking Advice & Opinions” which had me giggling, even while I was nodding in agreement. For example, under Camp Tips, informally formatted with ellipses between hints, they say:

Wilderness is about enjoyment, not roughing it…Don’t camp downwind from a dead tree…Bury waste; burn t. p….Never sleep in a tent with someone who had black beans for dinner…Take off sweaty clothes and put on dry first thing in camp…Other uses for hiking poles: camp billiards, fencing, weenie roasts…Only the finest resort hotel rivals the finest campsite.

Well, I am guessing that I had Donna nodding in agreement until that very last point. She’ll probably say that a campsite doesn’t even compete with a resort hotel.

Do you have a favorite spot in the Sierra Nevada? Join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook or send us an email to ask a question or share your experience.

All photos courtesy of  Janine Sprout.

Disclosure: We have included an Amazon link to Alpine Sierra Trailblazer for your convenience. However My Itchy Travel Feet receives a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you.

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