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A hiking guide for all seasons and reasons: 50 Hikes in Orange County by Karin Klein

December 18, 2011

For a last-minute gift for yourself or a loved one, Karin Klein’s 50 Hikes in Orange County is a great choice.

Explorer's Guides: 50 Hikes in Orange County

Not only does the reasonably-sized book (yes, it will fit nicely into your pack) present an interesting variety of trails (helpfully divided into three sections that pay respect to Orange County’s varied topography: Coastal Hikes, Foothills Hikes, and Santa Ana Mountains Hikes), the guide thoroughly describes what hikers will find as they walk along.

That is what sets this book apart—the amount of fascinating natural history Karin includes can transform any hike into an opportunity to learn about, and marvel at, all the hidden intricacies of local landforms and the unique plants and creatures that make their home in, on, over, under, and throughout Orange County coastal areas, foothills, and mountains.

I read a quote once that said being out in nature and not knowing the names of things is like going to a great art museum where all the paintings are turned to face the wall.

Karin’s book goes a long way towards revealing the beauty of Orange County’s wildlands.

Bonus #1: it’s the only Orange County trail guide written by a woman.

Bonus #2: My creative writing hikes to the mouth of Fremont Canyon get a brief mention on page 172! I had the privilege of hiking with Karin and showing her my favorite place on the old Irvine Ranch: the narrow mouth of Fremont, formerly known as “Canada de la Horca,” or “choked canyon,” because of the places where the walls squeeze in on you.

Karin has painstakingly (literally) walked every mile of the longer Fremont Canyon loop, as well as every other hike she describes, and she does a nice job describing what she’s seen along the way. Adding layers of interest to “mere” description, though, is the amount of research she includes with all kinds of cool details about each area’s human and plant and creaturely history (and sometimes, in the case of fossil-heavy areas, pre-history).

Since I am somewhat stuck in my little 2-3-times-a-week foothills hiking/trail-running rut (90% of my rambles are in and around the Lomas de Santiago: Santiago Oaks Regional Park, Irvine Regional Park, Peters, Limestone, Weir Canyons . . . you get the idea), I enjoy reading this book just because it transports me somewhere new each time I pick it up. . . and it makes me REALLY want to drive a bit and explore the many Santa Ana Mountains trails it seems I’ve been missing out on all these years . . .

For Orange County visitors, traveling here for work or vacation, 50 Hikes in Orange County is a wonderful resource to show the “better” side of Orange County—pretty much the opposite of the artifice of Disneyland . . . and while lots of the hikes listed are suitably remote, some are only minutes off the freeway. This is another benefit of the book: the variety of terrain, accessibility, mileage, etc.

And, of course, since there are far more than “50 hikes” in the wilds of Orange County, I hope Karin’s book will get people interested in exploring all the many other places to ramble (and, after exploring and learning about and falling in love with our Orange County wildlands, I hope more and more people will be interested in preserving this vast treasure.)

Karin’s next project: she’s looking to compile a book of 50 more hikes, this time as described by some of the local experts she met while researching this first book—“50 Favorite Hikes of Orange County Naturalists,” or something along those lines. I can’t wait!

For both locals and visitors, this book makes a great gift, now or throughout the year. It’s available at local bookstores as well as Amazon.

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