I was in Utah recently, for a 5 days road trip to explore the national parks of the states of Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho. A 7th or perhaps 8th in the series of back-country travel through the states of north america, and perhaps the longest so far in term of miles, and toughest, though learnings from the Alaskan highway drive came in very handy and made it somewhat easy to traverse through storms, icy roads and bad weather. it was quite exhausting to say the least. I will be writing about the places I covered, along with those from the previous trip in weeks to come, First I thought I'll do a quick review of these two books I have in my hands, since these two pretty much are with in the subject matter of what I blog these days. The first book titled "The Official Guide to America's National Parks" by national park foundation, I purchased from the visitor center of Golden Spikes NHS Utah where I was last month, for 20 something dollars. The second book titled "Road Trip USA" was sent to me for review last year, almost around this time. That means I had it w/ me for a year almost, clearly not a very good reviewer send books to, I am. But the delay I will justify right here in this short review.
The Official Guide to America's National Parks
Its not really a book, its a guide, the avid book reader in you may argue. well, I know. For Someone like me, who's obsessed with National Parks, or very honestly, in Nature Exploration, I can use all the help I need to both plan and organize my travel plans to these sites. One of the days When I was wishing to visit all the national parks in the world, I sat and made this long list of 'em, and with the stats I can say it is sought by many. Only in the united states there are about 405 sites, not all are national parks though, that number is about 60, and my travels here in this part of the world currently not limited but revolves around this number and the journey that takes me to each of them.
The 14th edition of this guide book that I have in my hands, has a few colorful images, 11 regional maps, and pretty much somewhat consolidated information that the nps.gov website has published on its front page of each park plus a little extra. for example on the bryce canyon lodging page, the website only lists the one lodge inside, but if you visit the park you know, there is a mini town settled outside the park in Dixie national forest. The book has Ruby's Inn ( A Best Western's Lodge) listed with number and current rates, and few more as well. apparently thats the only one opened in the winter. We stayed here for a night, w/ out reservation, the rates I can tell, matches to whats in the book.
Would it've been a problem to add the park map ( for the major ones at least) ? It must have added a lot more value to the guide, that means, you still have to go to visitor center and get the usually free parkmap provided there, for special points and hiking trails and scenic drives.
There are 11 regional 2-page maps ( B&W ), good reference to what park falls in what region and its approximate location. you can then follow the individual "how to get there" part, like we had to do for Golden Spikes NHS in Utah, because GPS wasn't really helping.
Now I have two points to make here. the first is about using internet for directions :
After so many trips in this country, I know very well, that I am not going to get internet connection throughout on the road, and its not just true for insides of the park, but while you're driving to and fro it. So if you're using your Phone for Google maps, navigation may drop and specially on the highway if you need to take a certain exit it can be a good couple of miles long problem, the U-turn. Lots of state highways don't have direction guidelines. so if you have some significant pointers, it can be helpful.
The Vehicle GPS of course uses exact address, so good to carry a guidebook nonetheless, if you're not very accustomed to quickly finding out the nearby street and filling up the address, or you don't love maps and wasn't a trooper in high school geography. As for me, By the time I get on the road, I have the entire map flashing in my brain, but still, I think Its a good weight to carry because, I do get mad on the road, and in those times, the brain stops working. Exactly the reason why I paid 20 bucks plus to contribute a bit more to NPS, of course if you are the cancellation stamp and passport kinda person, this does list all the places with contact details etc so you can keep ticking off where all you've been to.
Bottomline, a good source for the national park explorer like me, and I would definitely buy one for each country if those exist, and I wouldn't mind or rather be pleased if they could, if not detail, at least list all the state parks, and wildlife refuge, state wise, would be very helpful, because, no matter the size, the little state bodies are no less worthy exploring when you pass through the area.
Road Trip USA By Jamie Jensen
Now coming to the second book and, the second of the two phrases, ( first is national park, and second the road trip) I firmly believe that journey is as important as destination. and that is precisely why, even though my trips circle major park paces, I prefer to take the remote routes, State highways, and not the shortest but the more scenic or historical routes that has interesting old towns and trails.
When I am reading a map, online, ( visually that is ) I am mostly looking at the topography, so I do miss out on the towns and historical significance of the the routes, thats where its a good to have carried some a highlighted text to quickly refer, just incase, no one has time to read the book on the way right? I remember I din't know anything about Julian until my trip last december.
Now this book here with me is no one referral point for all road tripping america. no it is not. But it has 11 interesting cross country route-maps and details of the routes like lodging and eating and places and point of interest. There is no personal experience like memorabilia here, I read the author has done 400,000 miles, these routes must be about 20,000 something in full. A little bit of log, and reading would have been interesting, in my honest opinion, But thats not the case here, and its someone another guide, only more specific to these handpicked routes.
If you're not following any of these routes, then its not a book for you. Same has been the case w/ me so far, and hence the reason I couldn't get to review it. Last year I also didn't have enough trips in my kitty to crisscross 'em w/ these routes but now I do, and hence I can telly and match my experience to see the usefulness that way.
The Book is very elaborate in terms of what you may come across on the route, you may however need to refer and in my language google those places to get more details, up to you if you want to do it in advance or on the way as and when you get the internet. Detour details are missing, i mean if there is a parallel route few miles away, the book doesn't say so, nor would it list something few miles off the road. Pretty american I would say in the way its written, in the straight line, My approach is less eucalyptus or redwood like and more like the structure of xmas tree may be, because I don't mind going off the road if i read/hear there is something interesting.
But again, as I said before, if you're following the route religiously, and in a way this book does introduce some good routes, includes few classic & popular ones like route-66 and US-1, this is useful. most of the business are listed, not exhaustive though, and good thing, all the state parks on the way are also listed so one extra point I'd give for that.
P S. Do check out few images from the recent trips I have posted in the gallery and also on flickr. Also few videos on youtube. those are all uncut as usual, I will have some gopro videos to share. soon.