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Wild About Wilderness — Review of George Wuerthner's California's Wilderness Areas: Mountains and Coastal Ranges

Book Review - California’s Wilderness Areas

The enthusiastic text and the glorious wilderness dawn and dusk photos by George Wuerthner pull the reader into this paean for exploring the best and most unspoiled landscapes in California. What better way to see the forests of California?

First things first—buy this book:

The enthusiastic text and the glorious wilderness dawn and dusk photos by George Wuerthner pull the reader into this paean for exploring the best and most unspoiled landscapes in California.

In a Wilderness, civilization’s impact is minor and minimal, and the explorer can see forests, mountains, meadows, and streams the way they have evolved independent of humanity. What better way to see the forests of California?

Wuerthner’s book describes 61 Wildernesses. The majority of the Wilderness areas are under the National Forest Service. They range from the south with Pine Creek Wilderness in sight of the Mexican border to the north with the spectacular and rugged Siskiyou Wilderness near Oregon, 40 miles east of Crescent City. Specific day and overnight hikes (180 in all) give you plenty of on-foot exploration options.

After setting the context of the geography and biodiversity of California, Wuerthner summarizes the history of Wilderness protection. The 1964 Wilderness Act provided permanent protection for designated federal wild lands. Each protected Wilderness will in turn protect our watersheds, the natural ecological processes, and the scenic beauty of the protected land.

A concise section on exploring the Wilderness gives guidelines for no-trace camping, avoiding altitude sickness and sunburn, obtaining safe water, and the essential items to carry.

Then we are into the body of the book, organized in the following five sections, one for each main non-desert region, each introduced with an overview of natural and human history:

Specific Wilderness areas are described for each region, with recommended hikes including distance, terrain, and highlights.

The final appendices of maps, addresses, references, and wilderness groups are complemented by Wuerthner’s closing essay One Man’s Opinion, where Wuerthner argues cogently:

Despite a mistake in the year of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, there is little else of fault in this excellent book, which we recommend.

Trees of the California Wilderness Area’s—from George Wuerthner

Northeast: Cascades to Great Basin

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Most of the forests in this region are montane forests, with these trees dominating:

Northwest: North Coast Ranges and Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains

Abundant rainfall and mainly low elevation supports superb forests of:

Sierra Nevada

In the Sierra foothills, annual grasses like wild oats grow amongst scattered stands of:

Higher, between 3000 and 5000 feet:

Higher:

Between 6000 feet in the north and 9000 feet in the south, in the "red fir" zone of maximum snowfall:

Toward tree-line, about 8000 feet in the north and 11,000 feet in the south:

South Coast Ranges: Santa Lucia, Diablo, and Sierra Madre Mountains

Riparian deciduous trees are:

Throughout the range are found oaks:

Southern: Transverse and Peninsula Ranges

At the highest elevations:

Riparian deciduous trees are:

Throughout the range are found oaks:

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Book Choice: George Wuerthner’s

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