Guide goes extra mile for you and your dog

Review: ‘Doghiker: Great Hikes with Dogs from the Adirondacks through the Catskills,' by Alan Via

Doghiker book cover.

In full disclosure, I do not own a dog. But as a guide and erstwhile trail worker, I hike for a living and spend a lot of time with guidebooks. Canine companion or not, Alan Via’s new guidebook from SUNY Press is a phenomenal addition to any trail dog’s bookshelf.

Via is an accomplished hiker, with ascents of the highest 100 Adirondack peaks (including the 46 High Peaks in winter), the highest 111 in New England, and five end-to-end hikes of the Taconic Crest Trail. Together, he and his Labrador retriever became the first human-dog team to reach the highest 100 points in the Catskills.

Alan has written a previous hiking guide (“Catskill 67: A Hiker’s Guide to the Catskill 100 Highest Peaks under 3500′”), but this new book brings both a new lens and a fresh level of detail to the material. With over 77 custom maps and extremely detailed route descriptions, “Doghiker” goes beyond “where to walk your dog” to provide definitive descriptions for some often-overlooked trails in eastern New York. Steering clear of the High Peaks and other more popular areas (in part due to dog restrictions), “Doghiker” opens the door to spectacular, if somewhat less travelled, options. As Via notes in his foreward, “If there are places for them to sniff and explore along a trail, any dog will be happy. … In my view, any hike has the potential to be a great dog hike if the human hikers are really enjoying it.”

To that end, Via has compiled truly detailed accounts of selected routes (33 in the northern region, 11 in the central, 33 in the south). The custom maps, assembled by Liz Cruz, provide relevant information with an easy-to-read style and attractive hillshade. These maps work in tandem with Via’s detailed route descriptions, which match the best hiking guidebooks in both specificity and readability. His prose easily links GPS coordinates with natural history, distinctive landmarks with alternate routes and bushwhacks. Each entry supplies traditional guidebook information (mileage, difficulty, traffic, etc,) along with dog-specific categories like leash requirements, dog safety and hazards, and water sources where “doghikers” can stop for a drink. All of this information is easily cross-referenced with locator maps, a comparative list of hikes, and an extensive glossary that provides clarification on everything from “hemlock wooly adelgid” to “poopsicle.”

This book also functions as a stand-alone dog-care manual, with chapters on training commands and an informative section on canine prevention and first aid for porcupine quills, heat exhaustion and many other ailments. Alan covers all the bases, and dog owners will be thankful for his thorough and loving consideration. As a non-dog-owner, I appreciate Alan’s emphasis on trail etiquette and awareness, and his encouragement to “be ambassadors for good dog behavior.” Also, many cute puppy pictures.

It’s not a cheap book (MSRP $24.95), but it’s a great value for the durable, semi-gloss paper (on which the maps and photos show up perfectly) and the comprehensive nature of the guide. “Doghiker” addresses an important recreation subset while outdoing other guidebooks in new and less-travelled routes, charming art and photography, and detailed hike descriptions.


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