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Book Review - Plan & Go | Lone Star Hiking Trail
Book Review by Frederick Falk; Organizer of the Austin Backpackers Meetup group
Title: Plan & Go | Lone Star Hiking Trail
“All you need to know to complete Texas’ longest wilderness footpath”.
by Kevin Muschter / published by sandiburg press; Copyright 2015
Paperback, 139 pp, b&w photos and numerous charts and diagrams
While planning to do a through-hike on the Lone Star Hiking Trail for the Austin Backpackers Meetup group, I was contacted by the author, Kevin Muschter, about the possibility of doing a review of his newly published book. He had just completed doing a through hike of its trail and had written a book briefly describing his adventures on the trail, but more importantly what others would need to know if they planned on doing a through hike of the trail as well. I agreed to do a review and he sent me a promotional copy of his book.
This book is a very easy read and covers many topics but does not go into an in-depth history of the trail. If you are looking for that type of information, there are other resources available including the Lone Star Hiking Trail club’s web site. This books points you to this resource as well as other places where you can get further information regarding the trail, Sam Houston National Forest and the many parks in and around the trail.
This book attempts to answer the following questions, and in my opinion does so very well, of:
How do I prepare for the LSHT?
How many days will it take me?
What will the weather be like?
Where can I access the trail?
What are my camping options?
How to resupply food and water?
What kind of gear works best?
The book also features a compact trail guide, example hiking itineraries and checklists for food and gear. Gear selection is a very personal and subjective thing for many backpackers. What I may carry, some would never think of carrying; while I shake my head in disbelief at what others may carry.
But there are many things about East Texas hiking that people who are unfamiliar with the area need to be aware of. One of those is ticks and chiggers; especially in the Spring and Summer. Other nasties to be aware of are the poisonous snakes that make their homes in the woods as well as venomous spider, insects and plants that you should be able to identify and avoid. This book does a very good job of covering what you can expect to see on the trails and how to avoid them as well as what to do if you do have an unfortunate encounter.
Additional topics covered that people from outside the East Texas area will find helpful is transportation options available as well as being prepared for what items an airline will or will not allow you to take on a commercial flight. One thing Kevin discovered was it was much harder to find canister fuel to purchase upon arrival than he had anticipated. He flew on a commercial flight and airlines prohibit you from carrying filled fuel canisters aboard their flights. He ended up having to scramble to find fuel prior to setting off on his trek.
Another topic covered is: do you plan on hiking this solo or with a group? With a group it is a lot easier to plan a shuttle whereas if you plan on doing the trek solo, you will need to make arrangements to be picked up at the end of the trail and transported back to your vehicle. Another option would be to leave you vehicle at the end of the trail and have the shuttle take you to the starting point. This method will also give you an extra incentive to finish the trail to get back to your transportation.
I tell members of my backpacking group that backpacking is 90% preparation. Kevin covers a lot of this in his book by going over how to stage food and water (depending on the duration of your planned trip), where to get fresh clean water, where you use facilities like showers along the trail, what to do if you get stuck on the trail during very inclement weather and so forth.
The book is divided up into seven chapters with an appendix listing many other related topics. After the introduction (Chapter 1), Chapter 2 introduces us to the challenges that the trail presents. Chapter 3 goes over what to expect, such as points of interest along the trail, typical weather encountered, where to camp, as well as the flora and fauna you might encounter. Chapter 4 covers long lead time items such as permits, travel arrangements and finding a hiking buddy(s); if you don’t plan on doing a solo hike. Chapter 5 is what I consider the “meat and potatoes” chapter and goes into the planning and preparation necessary for attempting the hike. Chapter 6 covers the gear that one needs for an extended stay on the trail. Many might find some of this subjective but Kevin does a good job of covering the basics of what you will really need to do this trip. However, I feel it is up to each person to decide what items to take along to meet their comfort requirements balancing with the amount of weight they are willing to carry on their backs. Finally, chapter 7 covers Kevin’s own personal experience of hiking the entire length of the LSHT, the challenges he encountered and how he faired.
The Appendices listed at the end include Checklists, Food Suggestions, Compact Trail Guide, Example Itineraries, Side Trails, Contact Information, Links and References, List of Abbreviations, and a little bit about the Lone Star Hiking Club.
Kevin finishes out the book giving a brief description of who he is and his other experiences.
There are certainly other books out there about the LSHT, but I found this one to cover all of the topics necessary to help someone successfully complete transversing the LSHT. It was a big help to our group on our attempt during the 2016 Spring Break week.
If you are thinking that about hiking the entire length of the LSHT or just doing a part of it, I would highly recommend that you pick up a copy of Kevin’s book and give it a read.
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