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Ready, set, hike!

Topics’ ‘1,000 Hikes in North America.’ If you’re the type who thinks that there can be no finer recreation than holding a remote, watching a ball game, and exploring the crunchy world of Frito-Lay products, then you won’t find a piece of software less geared toward your interests than 1,000 Hikes in North America from Topics Entertainment. However, if you’re the kind who always drives with the window open, even in the winter, and owns multiple pairs of mud-caked boots, then this electronic hiking resource should tickle you down to your Smartwool-covered toes. Although the information on this CD-ROM is culled from 13 books in the Mountaineers series, it goes far beyond the usual dashed-line maps and long descriptions about finding trailheads seen in most hiking guides. With 18 different regions, all it takes is a click on, say, one of the 75 hikes in Shenandoah National Park to embark on a virtual jaunt from the comfort of your computer chair. Also included are selections from the Best Hikes with Children book, giving the outdoor-minded traveler a chance to make hike planning into a family activity.

Each trail is illustrated by a map, information about the region, favorable seasons, level of difficulty, and distances. Best of all is the one thing that you can’t get from a dog-eared copy of a regional hiking guide: narration from backpackers and outdoorsmen that includes anecdotes, tips, and stories. Having Grizzly Adams available at the click of a mouse can be jarring at first, then oddly compelling, like campfire stories. But after a few rapturous descriptions of mountainous quartz outcroppings and flowers in the desert, I began to feel like suddenly there was a very knowledgeable hiking pal on hand to explain why I should cinch up my pack and get my boots to a trailhead on the double.

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