Well, the other day the mail brought a review copy of Top Trails, Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks to me. Published by Wilderness Press and written by Andrew Dean Nystrom, the book won the 2005 National Outdoor Book Award for outdoor adventure guidebooks.
So what do I think? Well, I think I need to take it out into the field to reach a good conclusion. Nystrom certainly does a thorough job of packaging information between the front and back covers of the book.
You'll find all sorts of charts that let you know whether a particular hike is one-way or roundtrip, steep or level, good for mountain bikers or equestrians, child friendly, and on and on. In fact, the charts and their symbols are so plentiful that the book actually takes a section to explain how to use this information.
Now, as luck would have it, one of the very first trails I checked out had an error in it. The section on the Shoshone Lake Trail in Yellowstone mentions the Lewis River Channel, which connects Shoshone and Lewis lakes together. In the text it states that, "This channel is very popular, since it's the only waterway in the park where motorized vessels are allowed."
Well, in truth, motorized vessels are specifically prohibited from going up this channel, and I'll kiss off the mistake to a typo, as on the very next page the author points out that "motors are allowed for crossing Lewis Lake, but must be left at the south end of the channel."
The book also contains a pretty thorough section on wildlife and plants, geography, geothermal and hydrothermal activity, and the usual "when to go" and "weather and seasons" info.
In all, this is a pretty informative book. If there's a drawback it's that the book is a tad bit on the hefty side in these days of lightweight backpacking. Perhaps it'd be better if the two parks were given separate books.
And then there's a question of whether you really need a guidebook. In actuality, all you need is a good map (although a guidebook will indeed help you decide exactly where you want to go), and I'll address that in the coming weeks with a review of a new mapping tool from National Geographic.
If anyone out there has logged some miles with the assistance of this book, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.