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Sangre de Cristo Trail Guide, by Michael O’Hanlon

Review by Hal Walter

Sangre de Cristo Range – June 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

Colorado Sangre de Christo Trail Guide
Third Edition
by Michael O’Hanlon
Published in 1999 by Hungry Gulch Press
ISBN: 0-9671829-0-5

A PERSON WOULD HAVE TO DO a lot of hiking in the Sangre de Cristo Range to find all the trails Michael O’Hanlon knows about. Better to just buy his book.

In the third edition of The Colorado Sangre De Cristo: A Complete Trail Guide, O’Hanlon divides the range into four sections from the north end at Poncha Pass to the southern end of the range, including the offshoot Culebra Range and Spanish Peaks. He then breaks down each section by trails. For each, straight-forward directions and a description of the trail are given.

Also included are five pages of maps, suggested hikes ranging from day jaunts to five-day backpacking treks, suggestions for four-wheel-drive, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing excursions, and a guide to area hot springs.

I especially enjoyed the three-page overview in the introduction that gives a brief description and history of the range.

Also appreciated was O’Hanlon’s approach to spreading out the impact of use by urging readers to avoid camping in places that have traditionally been heavily used, especially those at the high lakes. Some of my favorite destinations in the Sangres are streambank campsites. There are fewer people, and these are invariably warmer and drier places to sleep than the areas right at the lakes.

O’Hanlon spent 25 years hiking and climbing in the Sangres and that experience, as well as his years with Custer County Search and Rescue, shine through in his work.

While many trail-guide writers also try their hands at nature writing, and in doing so tend towards overdescription, O’Hanlon for the most part leaves the thrill of discovery to the reader. However, his brief description of Marble Cave and White Marble Hall Cave was enough to keep this claustrophobe’s feet planted firmly on the trail, with only the sky above.

— Hal Walter