Sandstone Spine: Seeking the Anasazi on the First Traverse of the Comb Ridge

David Roberts, Greg Child (photographer)

Mountaineers Books, 2005, 189 pages.



In this compelling story, three amigos, author David Roberts, climber Greg Child and Utah guide Vaughn Hadenfeldt, set off on an epic adventure to hike the length of Comb Ridge, the Sandstone Spine. Traversing over a hundred miles of remote northeast Arizona and southeast Utah, the ridge is crossed by only three roads. Though the relief of the ridge averages only 600 feet, following the serrated crest of the ridge demands countless ascents and descents, adding hundreds of feet of vertical gain to each day’s travel.

The route’s limited access creates a challenge requiring months of planning to maximize the benefit from the few restocking sites. Assuring adequate water poses the largest challenge. Unreliable, rain-filled sandstone “tanks,” replace streams as the prime source of natural water. Hiking, in close to 100 degree heat, sucks up at least four quarts of water per day. With supply drops several days apart, not finding water on the route adds over 40 pounds of liquid at each supply cache.

On a deeper level, Roberts uses the many pictographs, petroglyphs and ruins encountered during the journey as a springboard for describing the complex evolution of culture in the southwest. Drawing on research from earlier work, Roberts provides an explanation for ancient vandalism of some of the oldest rock art. The roots of Anasazi, a term used by few anthropologists today, embody hints of the fear of the power in the images. Roberts laments modern hikers who vandalize for far less noble reasons. Espousing the ethic of the “outdoor museum,” Roberts advises the hiker in the southwest to examine and photograph, but not to take artifacts. Leaving them in place preserves the awe of discovery for the next passerby.

Reading Sandstone Spine you will share in the adventure of three weeks on the trail in the wild southwest, you will share in the awe of discovering unknown villages, and you will learn much about the complex culture that did and still does call the southwest home.

Stan Miller


National Geographic Field Guide to Birds of Washington and Oregon

Jonathon Alderfer, Ed.

National Geographic, March 2006, 272 pages.


My interest in birds goes back to time spent at my Grandparents’ place in rural Arkansas. The dining room table looked out through sliding glass doors to a wide array of bird feeders. Anytime an unfamiliar bird stopped in, my brother and I would race to the massive illustrated bird book to see if we could identify the stranger. A book like The National Geographic Field Guide to Birds of Washington and Oregon would have been a much more accessible place to start.

Editor Jonathan Alderfer has created a concise overview for identifying and learning the basics about the birds of the Northwest. This compact, 4″ x 6″ – 272 page field guide dedicates two pages to each of the 186 birds it covers. Rather than using a taxonomic order, Mr. Alderfer has organized the field guide by bird families-this way similar birds can be more easily differentiated. The primary illustration is a full-page photograph. Smaller illustrations are used to show differences between the bird in question and other species that they are often confused with, or when relevant, to show the different markings and coloration of the male and female. Each species is identified in English, with its Latin genus and species found directly underneath.

The written description begins by pointing out specific physical clues used for identifying the bird, such as body shape and size, bill length and plumage color or pattern. The behavior section then details certain characteristics to look or listen for in the field. The habitat section describes areas that are most likely to support the featured species. Preferred nesting locations of breeding birds are also included in many cases. The local sites section recommends specific refuges or parks where the featured bird is likely to be found. A section called field notes concludes each entry; here you will find information such as plumage variations within a species, or details about other species that may appear similar. This is a great guide for the experienced birder wanting something to keep in their backpack, or for someone who has just gotten their first bird feeder and binoculars.

Bill Bloom


Weight Training for Dummies, 3rd Ed.

Liz Neoporent, Suzanne Schlosberg, Shirley J. Archer

For Dummies, March 2006, 388 pages.


Weight training is growing in popularity. Traditionally thought as exercise routines for bodybuilders, research is showing that lifting weights strengthens your bones, helps lose body fat, increases your strength and energy levels, and improves your quality of life. However, many novices are intimidated by the exercise machines, lingo, and program design. Weight Training for Dummies will give you the confidence to safely start a training program at the gym or in your home.

To help get started, the authors outline the appropriate lingo regarding equipment, lifting techniques, and basic muscle anatomy. Gym or home training programs utilize free weights (dumbbells and barbells), machines, and rubber exercise bands and tubes. Medicine balls and exercise stability balls should be added to this list. The book outlines the pros and cons of each piece of equipment.

Safety is always a concern when lifting weights. The authors provide safety tips for before, during and after lifting weights. Remember, pain with resistive training is the body’s way of telling you something is wrong. The idea of no pain, no gain will eventually lead to doctor’s office visit.

Weight training is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. When performed correctly, lifting weights can benefit all body types, from adolescents to senior citizens. Before beginning any exercise program, make sure your have medical clearance from a healthcare professional. The next step is to set training goals. Research shows 50% of all people who begin a new program quit in the first six to eight weeks.

The book outlines in detail each muscle group with how to pictures of several common exercises. Basic set-up, proper form, and do’s and don’ts of each exercise ensure safety for the novice. Sample programs are provided as a guideline to get started.

Now you are ready to start a lifting program. Weight Training for Dummies is a great tool for beginners. Use this book to discover the wonderful benefits of strength training.

Brian Cronin

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