Book Review: Fourth book in the Whistler Guide series goes primal 

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Whistler Hiking Guide

by Brian Finestone & Kevin Hodder, 192pp. Quickdraw Publications 2009

$26

Long before little humans manage to mumble "mama" lucidly enough to be understood by anyone not claiming parental rights, they hesitantly master the fine art of placing one foot in front of the other and moving forward without planting chin to ground... very often. Walking erect - along with opposable thumbs and a profound jones for chocolate - is the foundation for humans' innate speciesism. It sets us apart and gives us standing to lord it over all the other beasts in the jungle.

It also, barring injury or disability, opens up an avenue to a lifetime of travel, entertainment, quiet contemplation and exploration. Whether practiced as walking, strolling, hiking, trekking, tramping, running or meandering, moving about under our own power is as primal as it gets. One friend of mine who bills himself as the World's Cheapest Man pursued, for years, running as his only sporting pastime. It wasn't that he liked to run all that much; running was just the cheapest thing he could think of to do. No $8,000 mountain bike required, no gas stations, and hopefully few breakdowns requiring more than a sterile needle and some moleskin to remedy.

And when it comes to ambling about in beautiful surroundings, our local countryside is hard to beat. Stick close to the village or range far afield and one thing is certain, you can't cover any distance at all in or around Whistler without stumbling across a hiking trail. Predating mountain biking by a generation or two, the people who built this town also built miles and miles of hiking trails, many beginning a short stroll from your front door... no matter where in town you live. The ones who followed built even more trails.

And with a global population reeling from the Great Disappearing Wealth Trick, what better time than now to come out with a hiking guide to Whistler. With the publication of Whistler Hiking Guide , the fourth in their series of wickedly useful guidebooks, the duo of Finestone and Hodder have pretty much plumbed the depths of Whistler-centric guides, at least until they decide to do an in-depth roundup of scuba dives in Whistler's jewel lakes. Not that the boys are giving it a rest. "There are other projects... and, of course, updates," says Brian Finestone with a chuckle.

But after skiing and biking guides, tackling local hiking trails tops off a perfect hat trick. After all, it's not like we really need much of a guide to local golf courses.

As useful as the mountain biking book was at illuminating interesting local hikes, Whistler Hiking Guide is all about great places to go if your preferred mode of travel is one foot in front of the other. Taking a south-to-north orientation, the book provides detailed descriptions of 38 hikes, from the scramble up the Stawamus Chief to the alpine bliss of Joffre Lakes.

Whether you want to tackle the longest hike in the book - Singing Pass and Russet Lake via the Musical Bumps trail, a 27.8 km, seven-hour loop - or the shortest, a brief 1.4 km stroll around Beaver Lake above the Stonebridge subdivision, Whistler Hiking Guide will lead you there and back and provide you with the vital info you need to plan your trip. Like whether you can take your dog with you or not: Russet Lake, no; Beaver Lake, yes.

Readers familiar with last year's Whistler Mountain Biking will recognize the layout immediately. Icons clue you in to a hike's estimated time, whether it's a loop or an out-and-back, your chances of running across mountain bikers, scenic views or wildflowers, the aforementioned dog-friendliness and, bonus, kid-friendliness if you're trekking en famille. And if trail running is your thing, the boys have even been kind enough to toss in an icon to let you know which of the trails they consider the best runs.

A handy elevation graph will help you choose relatively flat hikes or at least let you know you're going to be climbing and descending and, for those of us with knees of glass, whether that dreaded downhill section comes early, while our shocks still work, or late in the hike.

And unlike other hike Whistler books, Finestone and Hodder appreciate the fact not everyone is after a wilderness experience as opposed to a walk. They've included fairly detailed descriptions of walks in and around Whistler village itself, chock full of interesting tidbits and local lore.

Whether you're a local who thinks you know all the trails around town - you don't - a weekender or a tourist just looking for some inexpensive family entertainment, Whistler Hiking Guide will let you discover this town the way it was meant to be seen, by foot. Okay, at least the way it was meant to be seen when you can't ski or snowboard.

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