These three books give us a look at Oregon's east side, its coast and the mountains in between. About the only area not covered is the Willamette Valley, which gets more than it's share of attention anyway.

OREGON'S DRY SIDE: Exploring East of the Cascade Range

By Alan D. St. John

Timber Press

Paperback, 320 pages

St. John takes on a monumental task and on the whole does a pretty good job of it.

This guide book explores the flora, fauna, geology, history and attractions of our part of the state. It's a breezy tour, hitting the highlights of a vast, complex region. After an overview of Eastern Oregon's natural history, the guide is divided into sections for southeastern, northeastern and central regions, which helps the reader manage the mass of information presented.

The 299 color photographs are the highlight of the book. Some of them are spectacular, among the best one will see from the region. The information is well-organized, there are good maps and the pages are loaded with tips for things to see and do.

It's not a comprehensive guide to the region - the Hermiston area, for example, is notable for its absence. St. John buys the conventional view that Pendleton is a cowboy town, which isn't truly accurate - except for a week in September.

ALPINE PLANTS: Ecology for Gardeners

By John E. Good and David Millward

Timber Press

Hardback, 192 pages

This guide takes us to the mountains with an examination of the amazing variety of plants growing above timberline.

The authors go world-wide in their study of alpine plants, but Oregon certainly has its share of environments where many of the species are found. This is a highly technical book, examining aspects of alpine plants from climate to reproduction. Color photos, 150 of them taken in locations from Mount Rainier to Kyrgystan, are again a highlight. It's a book for the serious plant professional or the amateur gardener looking for something completely out of the ordinary.

DAY HIKING: OREGON COAST

By Bonnie Henderson

The Mountaineers Books

Paperback, 320 pages

Beach walks, forest trails, lakeshores, ocean views, short hikes, long hikes - the coast has it all in abundance. This updated guide, the best I've seen for any region of Oregon, describes 120 hikes. From getting to the trailhead to the trail itself, the information is excellent, at least for the coast trails I'm familiar with.

There are maps, photos and detailed descriptions of the routes. Scattered through the pages are sections on things of interest to look for along the way, such as eagles, hermit crabs and sea lions. There's plenty of general information on weather conditions, hiking necessities, park fees, agency contact information and so on. A final plus: It's compact enough to fit in the pocket of your cargo pants.

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Bill Andrus is the EO's book review editor. Contact him at bandrus@eastoregonian.com.

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