Travel

Book Review: Base Camp Las Vegas

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If you enjoy hiking as much as I do, or if you’d like to explore the rich landscape of the American Southwest, you might do well to have a look at Deborah Wall’s new book, Base Camp Las Vegas (Imbrifex Books, Las Vegas; paperback, $24.95). The second edition of Wall’s 2010 book, the new volume adds 40 new hiking trails.

Deborah Wall clearly knows and loves her hiking trails, particularly in the Southwest. And you will too, after reading this book.  Whether you are a veteran or novice hiker, you’ll find plenty of fascinating tidbits of information, and new places to plant your footprints.

As the title suggests, these are trails that are mostly a short distance from Las Vegas — many within an hour or so. So using Sin City as a jumping off point, it’s possible to drive an hour or two, hit the trail for an hour or a few of them (the book includes estimated hiking time for each trail), and make it back in time to catch Penn and Teller. Other excursions are best treated as an overnight stay.

The variety of trails is staggering, ranging from the incredibly short (350 yards) to the daringly long (34 miles), from easy to strenuous, solitary trails and busy trails, well-known locations and lesser known locations.

Several of the trails offer glimpses of ancient Native American petroglyphs, and several offer a look at ghost towns. One of them,  in Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, features both a ghost town and fossils from the ichthyosaur, a marine creature that lived there during the desert’s underwater days.

Wall not only offers concise descriptions of geographic features, flora and fauna, but also information about history (Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, for instance, was once owned by Howard Hughes) archaeology, and even a bit of folklore (Robbins Roost is reputed to have been a hangout for outlaws who plundered pioneers trekking through). She also offers tips on the best time to tackle each trail, how to pack for the hikes, and how to be prepared for emergencies like flash floods, hypothermia and rattlesnake encounters.

The description of each trail is followed by its features at a glance; and the comments include drawbacks like lack of services and noisy air traffic.

And oh yes, there are over 200 beautiful photographs. Pick up this book, and before you’ve read very far, your feet will be itching to hit the trail.

 

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