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Retracing Steps in High Southwest and Africa

August 08, 1993|COLMAN ANDREWS

JOURNEY TO THE HIGH SOUTHWEST: A Traveler's Guide to Santa Fe and the Four Corners of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, fourth edition, by Robert L. Casey (Globe Pequot, $19.95 paper).

A good, solid, old-fashioned guidebook, innocent of flashy photographs, "reader-friendly" graphics and the like, "Journey to the High Southwest" is probably more suitable for reading in a motel easy chair than for pulling out of the glove compartment in the middle of a town, desert or Indian reservation, but is no less valuable for that. Author Casey combines serious but entertainingly related background on geography, history and geology (the reader will quickly learn the difference between a Moab tongue and an entrenched meander) with literally step-by-step, first-person descriptions of the territory and hotel and restaurant recommendations. Maps and evocative ink drawings (by Julie Roberts) are included.

There are gaps, as author Casey readily admits. The Grand Canyon, so often written about elsewhere, is all but absent from these pages. And though the Chaco Culture National Historic Park is mentioned briefly, Casey notes that he won't provide more detailed notes about the park's Anasazi ruins until "a better all-weather road to the area is constructed." (Curiously, however, elsewhere he writes that in revising the book, the word he's deleted most is "unpaved"--and then adds, "Let's hope that at least one of the national parks in the High Southwest is left with primitive access; getting there has always been part of the adventure.")

KING LEOPOLD'S DREAM: Travels in the Shadow of the African Elephant by Jeremy Gavron (Pantheon, $23 hardcover).

Gavron, former Nairobi correspondent for London's Daily Telegraph, is a lively writer and his subject matter is deeply fascinating--the African elephant, the huge old beast, ancient inhabitant of vast tracts of beautiful and sometimes brutal land, endangered species, metaphor for traditional Africa itself. Energetically and with a quirky sense of both humor and drama, Gavron tracks down the last elephant in Burundi (in the company of an ex-Kansan who observes that, "In the great universal library of conservation, Burundi is a comic book in the children's section"), goes elephant shooting (as an observer) in Tanzania, visits an elephant farm in Zimbabwe, and more. If you want to learn about Africa, Gavron notes at one point, you've got to approach it "indirectly, from aslant." In shadowing the African elephant, he illuminates the continent itself at least a bit, obliquely but compellingly.

THE REAL GUIDE: Able to Travel edited by Alison Walsh with Jodi Abbott and Peg L. Smith (Prentice Hall, $20 paper) and HANDICAPPED IN WALT DISNEY WORLD: A Guide for Everyone by Peter Smith (Southpark Publishing Group, $10.95 paper).

Subtitled "True Stories by and for People with Disabilities," "Able to Travel" is part informational and part inspirational. Together with basic travel notes about destinations all over the world, the book consists of scores of accounts, by the variously disabled, of where they've traveled and what they did when they got there. The scope of both is sometimes amazing. The authors, some of whom are considerably more eloquent than others, are not afraid to record their disappointments as well as their triumphs, nor to criticize unhelpful airlines, hotels and such.

Peter Smith, the paraplegic author of the Disney World guide, has done an exceptionally thorough job of researching the facilities (and lack of same) at the famed amusement and resort complex. He seems to have sampled almost every ride and attraction himself and taken detailed notes. Of the Body Wars ride, he describes the sensation of "flying down a mountainside, turning, feeling in control, but just. These are not ordinary feelings for someone . . . in a wheelchair." (As Smith states in an introductory note, Walt Disney World publishes its own booklet, "The Disabled Guests Guidebook," free at WDW wheelchair rental shops.)

FROMMER'S CALIFORNIA WITH KIDS, third edition, by Carey Simon and Charlene Marmer Solomon (Prentice Hall, $18 paper).

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