Armchair Sierra Hiking

snfg-cover2in.jpgI’m the kind of hiker/wannabe-naturalist who will jettison a bottle of water if it’s taking up backpack space I could use for another field guide. I might dehydrate, but I’ll lose consciousness knowing what kind of lizard was sunning itself on the rock I passed moments before.

Which is to say I’m a bit of a field guide junkie. I cannot be left alone with a credit card, an internet connection, and an enticing review of a beautifully-illustrated guide. It is inevitably a “get behind me Satan” moment, and I lose. But The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada, by John Muir Laws, is so worth the shame of relapse. Go to his web site and take a look at some of the incredible watercolors that illustrate this wonderful guide. I’m four hours and two years away from a meandering hike in the Sierras, but I keep this guide on my bedside table and thumb through it at the end of the evening. (I also read trail descriptions in hiking guides. Wanna make something of it?)

“Jack” Laws is also a columnist/illustrator for “Bay Nature” magazine, which I’ve been reading since its inception, and his monthly “Naturalist Notebook” is my favorite feature. The illustrations are so quaint and old-fashioned, with such attention to details of setting and behavior, that I pictured Jack Laws as an “old-school” nature illustrator in his late 70s – the last of a dying breed. Imagine my surprise to learn he’s actually a little younger than me! I love that. I love knowing that a youngster like Mr. Laws is paying this kind of attention to nature.

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