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Road Reads

Sunday, March 20, 2005; Page P02

BOOK: "Classic Hikes of the World," by Peter Potterfield (W.W. Norton & Co., $39.95).

TARGET AUDIENCE: Trekkers, actual and armchair.

Part pretty picture book, part trail guide, this handsome guide on 23 of the planet's best walks is hard to classify. It's a bit too much of a weighty, lavishly photo-filled coffee table tome to lug out on a trail head. But it's also too dense with mile-by-mile trail text, maps and contact info to satisfy those who just want it lay it on the end table. Potterfield proclaims that a fit hiker could follow in his footsteps "with nothing more than the information in this book and a good topographic map," but that seems much more likely for some of the treks (California's popular John Muir Trail or the well-marked rim-to-rim walk through the Grand Canyon) than others (the desolate Shackleton Crossing in Antarctica or the Torres del Paine loop in Patagonia). Even for the softer options, it's hard to imagine any experienced hiker setting out without a more specific guide.

Ultimately, this volume is probably better for inspiration than information. It's easy to imagine an ambitious outdoorsman paging through and using Potterfield's impressive expertise to plot out his backcountry to-do list for years to come.

-- Steve Hendrix

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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