With more than 600 miles of trails and more than 700 lakes and ponds, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness is an embarrassment of riches for Northwest hikers. Writing a guide for the area is no small task. But local brothers Nathan and Jeremy Barnes, authors of the new book, Alpine Lake Wilderness: The Complete Hiking Guide (Mountaineer Books, $24.95) have produced an impressive comprehensive guide for anyone looking to head out to this wilderness area.
Some hiking guides are a “just the facts” guides - how to get to the trailhead, what’s the elevation gain and the other critical data points to planning a hike. This book sets itself apart with great color photos and more information about the history of the hike and facts about the surrounding area. Topographic maps (in color!) for each hike are also included. A “Going Farther” section for each hike adds an option to extend the trip. Also, while there are many old favorites, they have also included hikes you won’t uncover with simple online searches or lists. There will be new hikes in here for even the most experienced Alpine Lake Wilderness hiker, while offering plenty of options for those who haven’t before hiked this area.
The book arranges hikes by number, all generally along the I-90 and Highway 2 corridors. As the numbers go up, you head further and further east. Each hike also has an estimated hiking time - something most books are reluctant to include, as everyone hikes at their own pace. However, it’s extremely useful to have a benchmark like this. Estimating time by looking at distance and elevation gain alone often leads to wild miscalculations as these two pieces of data don’t tell the whole story of any hike. Another bonus data point: Foot traffic is evaluated for each hike, to give you an idea of whether you’ll be going it alone or with a crowd. There are also eight extended backpack trips included, for those who are looking for longer adventures.
Another nice feature in the book is the Guide to Place Names in the back: good to know that Melakwa Lake comes from the Chinook word “Melakwa” meaning mosquito (and this makes sense if you’ve been to Melakwa Lake) and that Pratt River and Pratt Lake are named after two different Pratts. This section is a welcome addition for hikers who use these names all the time, but have been unaware of the origin.
Alpine Lakes Wilderness is terrific addition to the canon of Northwest hiking books, and would be a fabulous gift for the hiker of any experience and ability. It will inspire you to put on the boots and head out to new trails.