Reviews and Comments about Conifer Country

"Just wanted to add my congratulations to the many you’ve undoubtedly received.  Conifer Country is amazing!   I am planning whole weekends around using your book to find great places to explore in the Siskiyous.  My husband and I are so into it that we drive many extra  miles to “tick” a new conifer!    Thanks for a very original contribution to the natural history guidebook genre."

Susan Harrison, Plant Ecologist - UC Davis

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"There are field guides, and there are guides to the country, and the two seldom meet. It's too bad, really, because a good guide in that genre allows the author to virtually take you into the field, to see the things that they saw and to talk about them. The "Roadside Geology of... " series is a good example, but the model has seldom been carried over into the world of the forest, except in Arno's "Timberline" and the late Randy Stoltmann's books on the ancient forest. Michael Kauffmann has done us an exceptional service by producing a book in this vein for the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion, focused on the conifer trees of this area which has the greatest conifer diversity to be found anywhere in North America. After an introduction to the bioregion, the book basically consists of two sections: a review of the 35 conifer species, followed by a selection of 29 recommended hikes that range from short dayhikes to the 400-mile Bigfoot Trail (treated here in very condensed fashion, of course). The species treatments include a range map, photographs, text supporting identification, and additional narrative touching on topics such as natural history, ecology, optimum sites to see it in the field, human use of the species, and even the occasional insightful anecdote. The trail guides contain the usual trail guide information - sketch maps, elevation profiles, distances, how to reach the trailhead - but also discuss the ecology and natural history that you can encounter along the way. Although I have not yet had a chance to take this book into the field, it has inspired me to plan a trip to the area, and I expect it will receive some hard use before the summer ends."

Chris Earle author of The Gymnosperm Database

Conifer Country (2012) subtitled A natural history and hiking guide to 35 conifers of the Klamath mountain region by naturalist and teacher Kauffmann is an excellent recent example of a combined hiking, natural-history guide, with emphasis on the latter. The book is resplendent in its copious illustration, its well-written, indeed lyrically enthusiastic text, its descriptive detail, its astute observations, and its synthetic capability. This work is an unexpected trove befitting a geologically, climatically, and biologically complex area that is a hotspot of conifer diversity: 35 species (36 taxa).

Rudi SchmidRudolf ("Rudi") Schmid, Emeritus
Department of Integrative Biology
University of California - read entire review

"This is the first in a new genre; a tree watching guide.  Ask any bird watcher and they'll tell you that a big part of the draw is that extraordinary birds are found in extraordinary places.  Tree watching is a similar but inherently a more vigorous activity, since unlike birds, trees don't move and you must therefore hike to visit them.  This is a regional guide to the world renowned diversity of conifers in the Klamath-Siskiyou region; remarkable trees in remarkable, or in some cases unique, places.  This book will expand the horizons of any nature loving reader.  Folks with some extra time, and possessed with a spirit of adventure, will discover that the the Redwood forests are but one of a host of wondrous places in this corner of the world.  The descriptions of species and how to identify them are concise and easy to read, yet they are also scientifically correct, including notes about natural history and species lineage for those who care about such things.  The maps for finding the trees are refreshingly simple and easy to follow; they'll get you there, but they don't pretend to replace other sources.  Every hike description starts with "where it is" and is followed by "why you want to go there".  Every hike also has an elevation profile, which is a good thing since many of the locations will require a significant investment in sweat for the reward of experience.  What more could a nature explorer ask for?"

Gordon Bonser

"Half a century ago ecologist Robert Whittaker stated, “All western plant formations dominated by trees occur in the Klamath Region, as in no other area.” This remote area is a center toward which temperate forests of the past have shrunk, and it contains twice as many conifers as other areas of diverse forest such as the Olympic Mountains and Sierra Nevada.

At last someone has produced a comprehensive guidebook for people who are interested in exploring the Klamath Region’s wealth of conifers. Michael Kauffmann is a self-professed tree lover and devotee of the region whose book imparts both enthusiasm and vast knowledge of the conifers found there. To that end, Conifer Country introduces readers to the region’s natural history—how remnants of diverse prehistoric forests happened to survive here, and the role that complex topography, geology, climate, and escape from human disturbance has played in maintaining a fascinating mélange of forests. After setting the scene, the book gives detailed descriptions of each conifer species, including identifying characteristics, common associates, distribution, ecological relationships, and more. Each species write-up is accompanied by a range map and a pair of small color photos of foliage, cones, or habit. A large section is then devoted to maps and descriptions of trips (mostly hikes) into areas where fine examples of different conifers are found. A glossary defines many of the technical terms, and a bibliography cites other literature that may be helpful. The appearance and quality of the book and illustrations is good.

The author expresses his appreciation of trees with literary flair: For example, “Every Klamath encounter I have had with Pacific silver fir has inspired euphoric elation.” And, “Under a vast array of harsh subalpine conditions—from sheltered forests in north-facing lake basins to storm-beaten krummholz thickets on ridgelines—mountain hemlock is effectively refined for high-elevation survival. With a seemingly delicate appearance, no other conifer so efficiently veils its strengths.”

The book is a unique contribution that will greatly interest serious students of the tree bounty of this special region. However, because it lacks a key to the species it is less suitable for the broad audience of people who are interested in native trees but have no technical background. As a “tree book” author myself, I have found that the general public’s first priority is tree identification, and this is best satisfied by a well-arranged, simple illustrated guide differentiating the species. Lately some of these guides or popularized keys are published in plastic-coated fold-up form for easy field use. If the lay person is able to identify a tree, he or she will then become interested in learning about it. I suggest that the author prepare a separate pocket identification guide to be sold separately as a companion to the book. Another, less critical problem for communicating to lay readers is the book’s rather extensive use of technical language (e.g. on p.14, “Assorted conifers inhabit regional microsites that are representative of a species-specific habitat often more common elsewhere.”). Hopefully, the book’s next edition will employ simpler language. The author clearly wants to recruit a broader audience for appreciation and ultimately to enhance protection of the Klamath trees. Once people can more easily identify a tree, they may be willing to wade into the profile of each species that is so well presented in Conifer Country."   

by Stephen F. Arno

"...But this isn't your grandma's field guide; it's fun, easy to read, and Kauffmann's appreciation for wildness and wilderness shines in his technical writing.... He transforms the Klamath-Siskiyou region into the scene of a story. And within that scene, Kauffmann develops a character out of each conifer. For example, he calls the Brewer spruce a "living fossil," and says the ghost pine "must be developing an identity complex" to help demonstrate the trees' behaviors." (Mail Tribune)

Gabriel Howe, Executive Director and Field Coordinator of the Siskiyou Mountain Club