By Tom Courtney, Wilderness Press, 2011, 234 pages, $16.95.
Imagine hiking from inn to inn carrying only a day pack, following a beautiful trail with a nice meal and room at its end. The Alps or the south of France? Perhaps. But you could also be in Northern California: Think Point Reyes or Monterey Bay.
Avid hiker Tom Courtney, inspired to extend a Marin Headlands hike all the way to Olema, traversed 38 miles in four days. That first “walkabout” led to many more, and Courtney describes 12 of them in Walkabout Northern California. Ranging from easy coastal strolls to strenuous mountain treks, these inn-to-inn hikes involve walking 14 to 56 miles over two to five days. Courtney’s engaging descriptions include natural and human history and stories of quirky locals. He also provides route information, lodging recommendations, trailhead directions, sources for trail maps, and tips on gear and safety.
Although the walking part is free, these walkabouts are not always designed for thrift; lodging sometimes runs $200 or more per night (though Courtney includes cheaper options like hostels when available). Instead of frugality, the book offers rich experience: car-free rambles rewarded with creature comforts–perfect for aging backpackers, carbon-conscious travelers, and anyone interested in slowing down to appreciate nature and hospitality.