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Courtesy photo

John Soares on Grizzly Peak

The trail whisperer: Ashland resident unveils new day hike book Thursday

Ashlander John Soares’ new book, “Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions,” details in thorough and user-friendly language 125 beautiful and doable hikes in the northernmost 150 miles of California, all within a few hours of here.

The richly illustrated, backpackable, 300-page guide takes all the mystery out of how to get there, what turns to take on the trail, good rest spots — even if it’s rife with ticks. Above all, it tells you where to find peace and beauty.

Here’s an example of his highly-informed and readable prose, telling of Little Castle Lake: “You’re welcome to go as far as you want, but for now, head left (northeast) 0.3 mile to the nearest knob and then sit back and enjoy the panorama. And what a panorama it is: the raw and jagged canines of the north section of Castle Crags rise abruptly just a mile to the south.”

Soares is no newcomer to hiking, having started at age 5 in the region around Anderson, California, where he grew up. He wrote “100 Classic Hikes: Northern California,” now in its fourth edition — both published by the prestigious Mountaineers Books in Seattle, publisher of 200 books covering the U.S. and world.

Soares’ career can hardly be called work — though, when out on his thousands of miles of trails, he does carry a tiny recorder and dictates the turns, sights, distances (by timing his strides with a watch and odometer) — and he also takes the pics for his books. However, the writing requires much detail and it has to be clear and accurate as possible, he notes, “so, that’s work.”

What Soares adores about Northern California is its granite. “It’s a beautiful rock, especially when sculpted by glaciers — and when it’s got those high mountain lakes, it’s really beautiful.”

The book is richly illustrated with details of topo maps and tables that tell you difficulty, distance, elevation gain and useful season.

It explores the great majesties of the region — Castle Crags, Mount Shasta, Mount Lassen and, just over the border from Oregon, the Marble Mountain Wilderness, Russian Wilderness and Trinity Alps Wilderness. East of the Cascades, south of Klamath Falls, it explores the desert trails of Lava Beds National Monument. It goes as far south as the Red Bluff area.

The hikes are designed as outings mild enough for families, enabling you to be back home for dinner, but, he adds, you can also turn many of them into a couple days of backpacking.

If you want to know his favorite hikes in the book, here they are: 1) Haines Lake in the Russian Wilderness, 2) Brokeoff Mountain near Lassen, and 3) South Gate Meadow, near Mount Shasta.

What’s the big draw of the outback? “It gets me away from civilization and into nature and allows my mind and body to relax. That’s important in a world full of the internet and cell phones, which everyone is so plugged into. They’re a continual distraction.”

Soares, a freelance writer for nonprofits and businesses (johnwrites.net) — and former college teacher, penned his first trail book in 1992. He dedicates this one to his longtime partner Stephanie Hoffman, who makes all the treks with him. More information is available at his blog, northerncaliforniahikingtrails.com.

The book is available in Ashland at Bloomsbury Books and Northwest Nature Shop, and many Barnes & Noble and REI shops. His book launch for “Day Hikes” is at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, May 31, at Northwest Nature Shop, 154 Oak St. in Ashland.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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