An accomplished nature writer and a fifth-generation Applegate Valley resident have joined forces to write a hiking book centered on their home turf.
"Favorite Hikes of the Applegate: A Trail Guide with Stories and Histories," by Diana Coogle and Janeen Sathre, debuted last month. Its 200 pages are filled with history and the personal experiences of the authors on the 29 trails they cover.
Janeen Sathre and Diana Coogle will discuss hiking in the Applegate from 4 to 6 p.m. today at the Applegate library, 18485 N. Applegate Road. For information, call 541-846-7346 or see www.jcls.org.
The women will speak also at Northwest Nature Shop, 154 Oak St., at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 3. For details, call 541-482-3241.
"Some of the hiking books out there are pretty straightforward in terms of, 'OK, here's the trail, here's how you get there,' and there's not necessarily a lot of personal take on the trail," says Sathre, who has been hiking the valley's trails for more than half a century.
Sathre and her mother write a regular local history column for the community newspaper The Applegater, and Sathre weaves her extensive knowledge of local and family history into this new paperback book.
Coogle, the book's lead author, is an essayist, playwright and teacher whose book "Fire From the Dragon's Tongue" was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award for Literary Nonfiction in 1999. For nearly two decades, her personal essays were a weekly fixture on Jefferson Public Radio.
"We were after something that was more interesting to read than just the trail guide, something that would be fun to read," says Coogle.
The seed idea for the book came nearly eight years ago when the two met on a trail while Sathre was leading a hike for friends and neighbors, something she continues to do on a regular basis.
"We were on the trail, and someone said, 'You two should write a book,' and we thought that was a great idea," Coogle recalls.
Information on each trail is presented in three parts. First is a sidebar called "The Stats," with conventional trail-guide data, including length, degree of difficulty and directions to the trailhead. Most of the ink, however, is devoted to trail ecology and is written by Coogle, followed by the historical significance of the trail, which is written by Sathre, with gems of personal experience from both authors.
Among these gems are a close encounter with a family of bobcats, directions to the world's third-largest incense cedar tree, the best Bigfoot habitat, and why cellphones in the wilderness may not be such a great idea.
When it comes to favorite trails, the authors agree on several. Near the top of both of their lists is the Frog Pond/Cameron Meadows loop in the Red Buttes Wilderness. This is a trail where you won't mind missing the forest for the trees. You'll see old-growth Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, sugar pine and one of the most southerly stands of Alaska yellow cedar anywhere.
"We forget, living in this area, how absolutely incredible these trees are," says Coogle. "You can't pass these trees without a bit of worship."
Another favorite is the Silver Fork Trail, which passes close to the shadow of Dutchman Peak. The trail offers expansive views of Pilot Rock and Mount Shasta, and Sathre calls it "a must-do trail for wildflower enthusiasts."
"It has the most variety and most unusual wildflowers in the late summer when you're not expecting such a plethora to be in bloom," says Sathre. "If you want to do some off-trail, it's not that difficult to drop down in through the basin back down to the road. There are open meadows along the trail that are full of asters." Two notable rare flowers you may spot include Siskiyou willow herb and split hair Indian paintbrush.
Sathre has a personal connection to this trail. As a girl, she used to go into the basin on cattle drives on horseback with her rancher uncle and other family members.
Some of the most interesting geology on these trails can be seen along the Pacific Crest Trail heading south from Cook & Green Pass in the Red Buttes Wilderness, a segment the authors refer to as the Green Gate Trail.
"You're walking on this narrow ridge at the top of the world, and you pass these red and green rocks and huge outcroppings of white quartz," says Sathre. "We usually think of our trails as being in the forest, beside the streams."
The trail offers side-trip options to the swimmable Echo Lake and a view of the salamander-rich Lily Pad Lake. You'll also take home more than a memory of what gave the Red Buttes their name.
"If you sit on the ground to contemplate the lake," writes Coogle, "you'll arise with a red patch on the seat of your pants."
The book contains many photos, including one accompanying each trail description, shots of several wildflowers you're likely to see, and historical photos.
For those who are into wildflowers, the appendix lists all the flowers the authors have seen on these trails. Other appendices include a book list sampling regional nature writing and contact information for local trails associations.
"Favorite Trails of the Applegate" costs $18 and is available from email@example.com. Local stores carrying the book include Bloomsbury Books, Ashland Outdoor Store and Northwest Nature Shop in Ashland, and Oregon Book Store in Grants Pass.
Daniel Newberry is a freelance writer living in the Applegate Valley. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org