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Posted in Blog by People's Press on August 25, 2011

As the fall season in the Rockies is fast approaching, check out our selection of guide and naturalist books that make for the perfect field companion.

By Alison Berkley

EVERY YEAR THE WILDFLOWERS BLOOM like a fireworks display, an explosion of color that always seems to appear out of nowhere and never ceases to amaze. Sure, I know a few of them: I can pick out Indian paintbrush. I know what columbines look like, an easy one to identify with their unusual tendrils and of course I know it’s the Colorado state flower. And once, on a 30-day backpacking wilderness course, I dined on the leaves of bluebells, which are so sweet and delicious I wondered why they would be considered as much of a delicacy as black truffles.

But every year, there are also dozens of flowers I don’t know, and I find myself having these sophomoric discussions with my hiking companions, like “I love these ones that have the splash of yellow in the middle,” or “I don’t know if those are poisonous, but I would stay away from them just in case.”

Thankfully, People’s Press has published a slew of guidebooks that will enable me to go deeper into the backcountry than ever before in terms of my knowledge. You can only become so intimate with a trail by hiking it over and over. But with this collection of guidebooks, I can finally go the distance.

Wild at Heart
You’d be hard-pressed to find a question about the Colorado wilderness that can’t be answered with this natural history guide that covers 423 plants, 112 birds and 49 mammals in the Colorado high country. In addition to being a field guide, the book covers edible and medicinal uses of plants (just imagine how helpful you’d be if you found yourself stranded or injured), conservation status of birds and animals (hunters be warned), ecology of various local life zones, and the history, trails and geology of the Snowmass Village area. It’s a virtual library of fascinating information in a compact book that easily fits into daypacks or backpacks.

Janis Lindsey Huggins has lived in the Aspen/Snowmass area since 1970 and spent more than 40 years exploring the upper Roaring Fork Valley and Colorado’s high country, studying the plants, wildlife and ecosystems. For many years she has guided naturalist tours for Aspen’s Center for Environmental Studies, worked as a field botanist on the western slope for the Colorado Natural Heritage Program at Colorado State University, and taught others in sports such as alpine skiing and windsurfing. Janis continues to travel the state, hiking, observing nature and photographing wildflowers.

Guide to Aspen/Snowmass Trails 
Warren Ohlrich has a pretty easy, if not downright wonderful commute to work. For over 25 years, he’s been writing guidebooks while hiking, backpacking, running, biking, skiing and snowshoeing the trails in the Aspen and Central Colorado area.  “I get out and do every single trail,” he said, “It’s sort of like my work is play.”
Now in its third edition, Aspen’s best-selling hiking guide takes all the guess work out of finding the perfect hike for any occasion. The book describes 30 popular hikes, which vary in length from one hour to five days and lie mostly within wilderness area boundaries. The guide has distance/elevation charts for each trail, day hike information, and a section on wilderness ethics and regulations. There are even GPS coordinates, just so there’s no question you know exactly where to go.   

Aspen to Glenwood Trails: Day Hiking Guide
Another one from Ohlirch’s thoroughly researched and masterful guidebook collection, this volume includes hikes throughout Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley. If there’s a trail from Independence Pass through Aspen, Snowmass, Basalt, and Carbondale to Glenwood Springs, and its side valleys, chances are Ohlirch’s guidebook can tell you all about it. This book includes 52 day hikes, with everything from short hikes suitable for families, strenuous hikes for athletes, all-day adventures, and hikes of all lengths with excellent photo and recreational opportunities. Yes, GPS coordinates are included for trailheads, destinations and important waypoints in this book, too.


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