Wild Side: Summer vacation could get wild

    Here in southern Oregon, we live close to paradise. This has been a green and lush spring in the Rogue Valley, but as things warm up I need to think about planning a trip into higher elevations of the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains.

    As I mulled my trip, I reached for the trusty copy of my favorite hiking guidebook. There are many fantastic guidebooks and insightful authors that describe wild areas and rivers in Oregon and northern California, but none compare to "Hiking in Bigfoot Country," or as we call it around the KS Wild office, “The Little Red Book.”

    First, I must note that "The Little Red Book" is way out of date, having been published in 1975. However the descriptions of the wildlands in this book are timeless. While it is long out of print, you can find a few copies floating around at Powell’s online or Amazon. If you use this guidebook, it is important to reference more up-to-date maps and check with public lands management agencies about current conditions, but the hike descriptions remain by-and-large quite accurate.

    "The Little Red Book" is in part a historical reference, written at a time when the public began to demand that the last, pristine areas remaining in Oregon and California be protected as “Big W” Wilderness Areas. In the '50s, '60s and '70s, public land management agencies undertook the most aggressive road construction and logging program in their history. 

    Author John Hart described the dissection and shattering of millions of acres of wilderness in this region. Still, many smaller areas described in The Little Red Book remain as wild today as they did back in 1975. This book divides the wildlands into five areas: The Red Buttes, High Siskiyou, Marble Mountains, Kalmiopsis and the Trinity Alps. It is first and foremost a guidebook to exploring each of these wilderness complexes. But it is much more than a guidebook.

    The book is also natural history, with interesting notes about geology, botany and wildlife. While many books describe the rare plants and natural history of this region, "The Little Red Book" peppers them throughout the descriptions of the hikes and trails in the region.

    Part field guide, the book is also part poetry as John Hart captures the essence of the wildlands in our region. He conjures up myth and mystery in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains, the allure of bigfoot, and the other special places one sees while exploring this region.

    Leafing through its pages, Hart’s description of the High Siskiyou Wildlands catches my eye: “The Siskiyou Range is not the very highest section of the Klamath Mountains, nor the snowiest, nor the ruggedest. Yet for its mixture of spectacle and charm, for the grandeur of its uncut forests and the elegance of its peaks, the High Siskiyou region is hard to beat.”

    Summer vacation planned.

    Joseph Vaile is executive director of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center (KS Wild, 541-488-5789, www.kswild.org). His Wild Side column appears every three weeks.



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