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Off-Trail Adventures in Baja California: Exploring Landscapes and Geology on Gulf Shores and Islands Paperback – 30 May 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 253 pages
  • Publisher: University of Arizona Press; 6 edition (30 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816521301
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816521302
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2 x 22.9 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,550,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


""Off-Trail Adventures in Baja California" is in the vein of John McPhee's popular geology books."-- Richard C. Brusca, editor of "The Gulf of California: Biodiversity and Conservation "and author of "Common Intertidal Invertebrates of the Gulf of California"

About the Author

Markes E. Johnson is the Charles L. MacMillan Professor of Natural Science, Emeritus, at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He is the author of "Discovering the Geology of Baja California: Six Hikes on the Southern Gulf Coast" (Arizona), and co-editor of "Atlas of Coastal Ecosystems in the Western Gulf of California: Tracking Limestone Deposits on the Margin of a Young Sea" (Arizona).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Great view into Baja's Geology 12 Aug. 2014
By halard lescinsky - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I “saved” reading this book until I was a couple days into a sea-kayak trip from Loreto to Las Paz. I’ve been lucky enough to have had my fair share of adventures in Baja and, as anyone who has traveled in Baja can attest, you cannot travel far without coming face to face with geology. Paddling along spectacular sea cliffs for 10 days didn’t hurt. As it was, I read the book in the afternoons after paddling while clinging to shade on wild and remote beaches, and I just loved it. Part was reminiscing about various trips of my own and comparing notes, and part of it was enjoying the exploration and discovery process that Professor Johnson has been going through over the last two decades.

While the book does give the practical information necessary to see the geological places that it discusses, I wouldn’t view the book as a field guide any more than I would view Annie Dillard’s work as a field guide to Tinker Creek. It is a close and careful look at the rocks and fossils and then it walks you through the thought and discovery process that allows the geologic details of the area to be unraveled. It was fun to go along with Johnson on his journeys, even while I had only passing interest in which areas had ancient upwelling and which were ancient bays (I do like fossil reefs, however). Also, I have no particular plans to seek out the spots he writes about, or do the described hikes, but this doesn’t diminish the fun about reading about them.

Funny enough, my favorite chapter was one where I had no connection, and in which not much happened. It was the hike across rugged terrain to distant dunes to see if they were made of wind blown shells. There were many false starts through myriad dirt tracks and arroyos and only through perseverance did they finally reach the obscure, out of the way, and not all that tall dunes. It was a science quest and exploration in a very small but also very pure way. The kicker was that the dune turned out not to be marine sediment at all. But rather than taking this as a colossal failure, in the true spirit of science it opened up unexpected new lines of thought and ultimately a new view of ice age climate in the area.

There are many natural history books that look in detail at the plants and animals of Baja or anywhere for that matter, but there are few that give the same attention to the rocks and fossils. This book does that, and provides a clear view into Baja’s layout and history. I recommend it thoroughly for anyone who has explored in Baja and wondered about the rocks, and anyone who really wants to understand how field geology is done.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
One of the best books on Baja, ever! 8 April 2014
By R. C. Brusca - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is one of the best books I've read on Baja, or on natural history in general. Readers are taken into the beautiful and remote back country of Baja California to learn about animals, plants and geology though the eyes (and mind) of a first-rate naturalist. Follow the author's mind as he recognizes curious patterns in nature, then sets out to investigate and understand them. Johnson is one of the top Baja geologists working today, and his field studies on this enchanted peninsula are done in collaboration with students and two other top geologists, Jorge Ledesma-Vázauez and David Backus. Follow these scientists through the land of Boojums and stromatolites as they wind their way down the peninsula. This wonderful little book is a most enjoyable read. And you'll learn a lot about geology and natural history along the way.
A Great Read 26 Aug. 2014
By Thomas Bowen - Published on
Format: Paperback
If you've ever wondered what it is like to be a geologist who loves his work and the places his work takes him, you'll love this book. Markes Johnson takes us, via enchanting prose, to nine wonderful locations in Baja California, four of them islands in the Gulf of California that few people ever get to see. He tells us why each of these places is special -- geologically, historically, and aesthetically -- and by recounting his field trips to these places with his students and colleagues we learn what geological field work is really like -- stuck vehicles and all. Johnson is especially up front about the role of serendipity -- every field worker learns to expect the unexpected. Some of the best discoveries are a matter of blind luck, and for Johnson and his crew one of these was finding stromatolite beds -- the living representatives of some of earth's oldest life -- on one of the islands they visited for entirely different reasons. Fantastic!! Throughout the narrative Johnson treats us to delightful tidbits of natural history, cultural history, and local color. By the time you finish the book, you will have learned a lot about Baja California and how the earth works, and had a really good time getting there. A great read!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
but best for anyone that is already interested in geology 21 April 2014
By Neal Johns - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Well written by a man that truly loves Baja, but best for anyone that is already interested in geology. Recommended for frequent Baja travelers.
A must buy if you plan to travel to the areas detailed in the book. Highly recommended! 6 Mar. 2015
By Bosque - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Markes Johnson knows more about the geology of Baja than just about anyone else. I have been fortunate enough to be in the field with Dr. Johnson in the Punta Chivato area of Baja California Sur, and his vast knowledge and enthusiasm about the area comes through very well in this wonderful book! A must buy if you plan to travel to the areas detailed in the book. Highly recommended!
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