Sunday, May 19, 2019

Shawn Lyons' three volume "A Walk-About Guide to Alaska" is perhaps the most popular and heavily-used hiking guide for South Central Alaska. This particular volume covers a selection of hikes on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage and along Turnagain Arm, through which runs the Seaward Highway on the way to the Kenai Peninsula.

First time hikers in Alaska will find that the heavily used and well-developed trail networks common in the lower 48 are not typically in evidence in Alaska. Even on the more popular routes, hikers may be challenged to identify and follow a trail; outside of a few trails near Anchorage, there will be little signage. Hikers must be prepared to find their own way, and Lyons' guide is an excellent source of the information necessary to plan a hike.

Lyons provides basic data about each hike, including how to get to the trailhead, descriptions of the length, elevation gain, grading of the trail, and other useful information. Each entry includes a sketch map of the route, which, when coupled with a regular map, is usually sufficient to follow the route. Interspersed with the trail descriptions are short essays by Lyons on the joys of hiking in different areas, along with some useful information on what to expect to see or experience. The selection of photographs help provide a sense of scale for rugged terrain.

Lyons is an usually fit and able hiker, and his grading of trail difficulty might be taken with a grain of salt by the less dedicated hiker. This volume is highly recommended as a planning resource for the rugged terrain of the Kenai Mountains and along Turnagain Arm. For early summer visitors to Anchorage, the south-facing slopes of Turnagain Arm are often the first areas to be free of snow.