Book Report

Mexico. A Hiker’s Guide to Mexico’s Natural History, by Jim Conrad. Second edition. 220 pages, $16.95. 1998.

The author of this book refers to himself as “ old hippie”....(with an aversion to drugs), who claims that his many “escapes into Mexico....forests, deserts, and mountains”....have “enriched his life.”
I would heartily recommend the book for all day hikers, travelers, and also for those of us who are simply curious, and want to know more about our world, and particularly Baja. Foremost, it is a book quite useful for those who are adventurous and want a good and dependable resource for hikes and sights in Mexico. 20 one-day-hikes are included and described. Most of these hikes are between one and 12 miles long.
On Page 7, the author explains that the book is meant to be a guide to “...understanding what is to be seen, (and) not in cataloging numerous trails”. He gives readers 21 “samples” of day hikes, which he believes can then help the reader learn to find and explore whatever type and difficulty level of hikes best suits him, and he also helps travelers to better plan their vacations and destinations when traveling in Mexico.
Logistics first....this book contains 8 chapters, with 220 pages, an Appendix A, Scientific names, an Appendix B, a key to thorn-forest bean-family trees and shrubs, an extensive bibliography, and an index. There is also a wealth of maps, black and white photos, and the center section contains colored photos of ruins, plants, and animals.
My favorite description in the book was of the ceiba tree. The ceiba or kapok tree (which is related to the African Baobab), interests me mainly because it is a host tree with a multitude of other plants living on its branches...It is a tree that helps other plant life flourish.
Chapter one is a great resource, giving travelers basic travel information, with sensible tips on planning proper clothing, gear, needed paperwork and passports; and then expanding to safety and health, including tips on food, attitudes, and water. Some of this is information that can be found in most travel books, but I found his information to be interesting, readable, and quite informative. The author also gives readers basic information on geological zones: volcanic landscapes, rocks, desert landscapes, vegetation zones, and coastal geology.
To find information about our own Baja, turn to chapter three, which covers Baja well: both land and people, including some history, and he also gives us good information about our three thousand mile coastline.
The many black and white photos in the book are large and informative, the colored ones are beautiful, and I found that reading the author’s descriptions, gave me even more admiration for Baja’s different zones: desert, grassland mesquite, oak-pine forest, boreal forest, cloud forest, and thorn forest. He also describes our wonderful Mexican diversity; the marsh savanna zone, mangroves, and coastline. What a wealth of diverse forests, deserts, mountains, and shorelines do exist in this country!
The author states that he worries about many happenings in our present day world, and his final statement, (which can actually be found in the book’s preface): ” writing this book, then, is one thing I can do to help things.” He ends that thought, musing that “when humans become sensitized to other living things....learn to care about them....we improve ourselves .”
You can find this book online, at Amazon, or in El Caballo Blanco bookstore in Loreto B.C.S. Mexico. I recommend it for all lovers of Mexico, including our beautiful Baja, and also for readers wanting more basic information about travel in Mexico.
Jeannine Perez, owner of El Cabello Blanco book store in Loreto ,