Guidebooks on the Go: Turning a Closet Full of Print Guidebooks into Searchable PDFs


Over the years I've accumulated a fair number of of guide books.  They're a mix of peak guides, rock climbing guides, and the occasional small print book covering the history or fauna of a particular area.

While I personally feel the sources available on the internet have surpassed most of the old print guides I do find that many of them still contain valuable information. For example take Andy Zdon's Desert Summits.  While I find it to be a very frustrating book due to the lack of maps and a few other design choices it does have information on a lot of peaks you won't find elsewhere.

The problem I had with my collection was that I was rarely sitting at home with access to my bookshelf when I wanted to plan trips. In fact I had several really interesting books that I tended to forget about for years at a time.

So for a while now I've been contemplating doing something about this situation. For me the ideal was something digital I could access anywhere on my computer, phone, or tablet. (I have had a few books in digital format for example RJ Secor's Sierra guidebook but the DRM included with the legal purchase disallows copying or printing and most other guides just were not available in anything but paper.)

Enter the great guidebook scanning project of 2018!

Kaweah Group Heads Up Sierra Peak For The First Outing of The 2019 Wilderness Travel Course!

February 10th, 2019
Sierra Peak (3,045')
15 miles, 3,000'
[Pics] [Caltopo] [Map]

Those that follow this site know that I'm a volunteer instructor for the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course down here in Orange County. I run Kaweah Group which is one of three groups in the area and so my schedule tends to be dominated by the class in the January to April timeframe.

The class began on January 22nd and we have had three of the ten Tuesday night classroom sessions so far but we'd yet to actually get outside with the new crop of students. That all changed this weekend with a full day hike excursion to Sierra Peak.

We'd originally planned on Mount Wilson from Sierra Madre but the seemingly endless series of storms we've been experiencing this year resulted in temperatures in the 30s, high winds, and 3-5 ft of snow up top. That the prospect of a steep trail with a big drop off to the side less than ideal so we ended up changing at the last minute.

So off we went to Sierra Peak with a forecast of temperatures in the high 40s, high winds, and rain pretty much throughout the day.

Diving Before Work At Shaw's Cove Laguna Beach

January 25th, 2019
[Pics] [Map]

I've recently jumped into diving with the intent of maintaining all of my other various outdoor hobbies. As I'm sure you can guess that is a bit difficult since I already struggle to find open weekends and now I have yet another awesome way to spend them. But hey, there are worse problems to have!

This weekend would see Kristen and I hopefully diving some deep wrecks down in San Diego with Sea Stallion and finishing up our Advanced Open Water certifications. We also had tentative plans to head over to Catalina and Casino Point on Sunday if conditions looked good and when the opportunity came up to do a kickoff dive of sorts Friday morning before work we both jumped at the chance.

A Cold Damn Dive From Cabinsite Point In Lake Mojave

January 13th, 2019
[Pics] [Map]

Yesterday had been fun but Kristen and I both felt we'd gotten our fill of dives at Kingman Wash and Willow Beach. Fortunately Bruce at Sin City Scuba had recommended we contact Jerry Portwood at Dive Shack USA in Laughlin about diving in Lake Mojave.

Similar to yesterday Dive Shack USA wasn't open on Sunday but Jerry was graciously willing to come in whenever we needed to rent us tanks and event went above and beyond to work with us around some cell coverage issues on Saturday.

Diving Lake Mead At Kingman Wash & Willow Beach

January 12th, 2019
[Pics] [Map]

This weekend was supposed to be a triumphant (-ish) return to diving in Southern California after the New Years trips. The plan was to join Sea Stallion on the Cee Ray dive boat to Catalina Saturday and then do shore dives around town on Sunday. And then conditions went to crap.

The Cee Ray was canceled due to swell and surf conditions ruled out anything on the shore. Going out to Catalina and diving Casino Point also looked like it wasn't an option.

And so we started to look further afield. Kristen had run into really bad weather during her Thailand trip and only been able to do a single dive so not wanting that trend to continue I said I'd drive wherever we needed to if we could find diving options.

And that's how we ended up talking to Bruce Hall at Sin City Scuba...

Paddling the Turner River in the Florida Everglades!

January 1st, 2019
[Pics] [Map]

After yesterday's amazing experience on the Vandenberg our ear related complications had forced us to cancel our last day of diving in Florida.

We'd driven through the Everglades but not done anything *in* the Everglades and so we started looking at paddling options since the boat tours all struck us as a bit too touristy for our tastes. We found a writeup of the Turner River complete with spectacular pictures like the one above which led us to talking to the Ivy House in Everglade City about the possibility of renting boats and doing some sort of longer point A to point B paddle. (After all, I wanted something I could write up on my website...)

By the time we talked to them the guy who handled their rentals was gone for the day but they assured us that if we showed up first thing the next morning they'd take care of us and get us paddling. So we took a leap of faith and set out hours before dawn from Key Largo where we'd camped the night before.

Diving the Vandenberg Wreck In Key West Florida

December 31st, 2018
[Pics] [Map]

Today was to be the crown jewel of dives we had planned for our Florida New Years dive vacation and the one I was the most nervous for.

The Vandenberg is an old military troop transport that was intentionally sunk ship off the coast of Key West as an artificial reef and recreational dive attraction. It's the second largest artificial reef in the world and while it starts at only 45 ft below the surface the bottom is on the sand at 140 ft and most of the interesting attractions require you go down to at least 100 ft.

I was currently straddling Open Water (which allows you to dive to a recommended 60 ft) and Advanced Open Water (which ups that to 130 ft) certifications due to weather holding up the last of the certification dives but after a good amount of research and a warm up dive the day before on the 70 ft deep Cayman Salvager wreck we were all set to at least give it a cautious try.

We had hired a local dive guide through Lost Reef Adventures and after meeting him the day before we ended up requesting Randy Pekarik who I can't recommend strongly enough. Even if you're experienced and comfortable at that depth Randy has over 2000 dives on the Vandenberg and can show you swim throughs and features you probably wouldn't have time to find on your own. Also he brings viking hats for post dive victory shots. Just sayin...

Diving Key West Florida - The Cayman Salvager Wreck (With Horrible Visibility) and 9 Ft Stake

December 30th, 2018
[Pics] [Map]

After yesterday's 6 dives across 3 boat excursions we were a bit run down and majorly low on sleep. Still, we only had so many days in Florida for our News Years 2019 Dive-cation of Amazing Awesomeness so far from taking it easy and doing something unreasonable like sleeping in we were once again up before dawn and headed south along the Keys.

This time we were diving off Key West with Lost Reef Adventures.

We picked our diving days by just looking around online and picking dive shops and excursions that reviewed well and figuring we could change things on the fly if needed. One of the things that jumped out majorly was the the Vandenberg which is a well-known wreck of the coast of Key West.

The only problem was that the Vandenberg was down at 100 ft and the Open Water certification only OK's you for 60 ft these days. After reading online the dive shop said OW divers were fine at long as they had 10 to 15 post cert dives and went down with a guide so we started to hope it might be doable. Just to be safe we decided to book a warmup deep dive to the Cayman Salvager (which is at 70 ft) the day before. And that was today!

Diving Looe Key In The Florida Keys - A 6 Dive Day!

December 29th, 2018
[Pics] [Map]

So far our Florida News Years 2019 Dive-cation of Amazing Awesomeness had consisted of freshwater diving with the occasional manatee belly rub but finally it was time to kick off the ocean diving portion of the trip!

The previous day had been rough with two hour long dives and almost 500 miles of driving to get us from the Crystal River area down to the Florida Keys. We arrived late, fell asleep on a small patch of dirt in the Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge RV Park, and left before dawn.

When we planned the trip today had originally been a rest day of sorts with a single two dive excursion in the morning and tentative plans to explore the Keys a bit possibly snorkeling, paddling, or just catching up on sleep.

But as some of you know I can occasionally be slightly allergic to anything that feels too much like planned downtime. And so while struggling through some enforced relaxation at my parents over
Christmas I prodded Jen into amping up our plans just a bit. An amused Looe Key dive shop said that they had morning, afternoon and night dive boat options and happily confirmed us for all three giving us 6 dives for the day and not a lot of downtime. Now we were talking!

Ginnie Springs Ballroom Florida Freshwater Cavern Dive & A Disappointing Failure To Find Herpes Monkeys

December 28th, 2018
[Pics] [Map]

We had decided on Devil's Den first and then looked around for what other diving options we could fit in before driving south towards the Keys. We ended up settling on Ginnie Springs because it was another cavern advertised as safe for Open Water divers but seemed like it would be a bit of a progression from Devil's Den.

Jen was nervous at first but we decided we'd go in and take a look and turn back if it wasn't something we were comfortable with. For what it's worth we both found it to be straightforward but well worth the side trip if for no other reason than the visibility in the spring was something like 200 ft!