BEST BOOK BY A LOCAL AUTHOR (1999)
Falcon Publishing's smart outdoor guides have long been essential gear for explorers of Western states like Montana and Alaska, and in 1996, Falcon entered the North Star State with Jay Michael Strangis's excellent Birding Minnesota. Last year, Falcon released Hiking Minnesota, a comprehensive, detailed compendium of great walks by Columbia Heights author John Pukite. From a 2.5-mile loop up Mount Tom, "the highest point within a 50-mile radius" of Wilmar, to the 200-mile Superior Hiking Trail, the 87 footpaths chosen by Pukite vary widely in length, geography, and renown. It's fun to recognize old favorites, like the 7-mile amble through William O'Brien State Park's prairie, woods, and swamp. But the book's value to native hikers lies in its obscurities, like the humble 6.2-mile stretch northeast of Austin called the Wild Indigo Scientific Natural Area. Here, on an abandoned railroad right-of-way bereft of great scenic views or intriguing terrain, you'll pass by some 340 prairie plant varieties, including blazing stars, wild quinine, and (naturally) white wild indigo. The Falcon guide provides information on elevation gain, location, length, difficulty, and special attractions for each hike, along with a map. We can't think of another recent book whose contents can guarantee a veritable lifetime of pleasure.