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Courtesy photoJohn Soares on Grizzly Peak

125 beautiful, doable hikes just over the border

Ashlander John Soares’ new book, “Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions,” details in thorough and user-friendly language 125 beautiful and doable hikes in the northernmost 150 miles of California, all within a few hours of here.

The richly illustrated, 300-page guide takes all the mystery out of how to get there, what turns to take on the trail, good rest spots — even if it’s rife with ticks. Above all, it tells you where to find peace and beauty.

Of Little Castle Lake, for example, Soares writes: “You’re welcome to go as far as you want, but for now, head left (northeast) 0.3 mile to the nearest knob and then sit back and enjoy the panorama. And what a panorama it is: the raw and jagged canines of the north section of Castle Crags rise abruptly just a mile to the south.”

Soares started hiking at age 5 in the region around Anderson, California, where he grew up. He wrote “100 Classic Hikes: Northern California,” now in its fourth edition. “100 Classic Hikes” and “Day Hiking” are both published by the prestigious Mountaineers Books in Seattle, publisher of 200 books covering the U.S. and world.

While some might envy Soares’ career, it can be hard work. As he hikes the trails, Soares takes pictures and carries a tiny recorder to dictate turns, sights and distances (by timing his strides with a watch and odometer). The writing, he adds, requires much detail and it has to be clear and accurate as possible.

What Soares adores about Northern California is its granite. “It’s a beautiful rock, especially when sculpted by glaciers — and when it’s got those high mountain lakes, it’s really beautiful,” he says.

The book includes topographical maps and tables that tell you difficulty, distance, elevation gain and useful season.

It explores the great majesties of the region — Castle Crags, Mount Shasta, Mount Lassen and, just over the border from Oregon, the Marble Mountain Wilderness, Russian Wilderness and Trinity Alps Wilderness. East of the Cascades, south of Klamath Falls, it explores the desert trails of Lava Beds National Monument. It goes as far south as the Red Bluff area.

The hikes are designed as outings mild enough for families, enabling you to be back home for dinner, but, he adds, you can also turn many of them into a couple days of backpacking.

If you want to know his favorite hikes in the book, here they are: 1) Haines Lake in the Russian Wilderness, 2) Brokeoff Mountain near Lassen, and 3) South Gate Meadow, near Mount Shasta.

What’s the big draw of the outback? “It gets me away from civilization and into nature and allows my mind and body to relax,” he says. “That’s important in a world full of the internet and cellphones, which everyone is so plugged into. They’re a continual distraction.”

Soares, a freelance writer for nonprofits and businesses (johnwrites.net) — and former college teacher — penned his first trail book in 1992. He dedicates this one to his longtime partner Stephanie Hoffman, who makes all the treks with him. More information is available at his blog, northerncaliforniahikingtrails.com.

The book is available at Bloomsbury Books and Northwest Nature Shop in Ashland, many Barnes & Noble and REI shops and online. He will give a presentation on “Best Hiking Trails in Far Northern California” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 11, at Medford REI, 85 Rossanley Drive, Medford.

Reach Ashland freelance writer John Darling at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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