CD-ROM Today (September '95)

One of the joys of armchair travelling is to pore over a map and, from the coloring and contour lines and landmarks, reconstruct the terrain in the mind's eye. CD-ROMs usurp that pleasure with a specificity of detail unique to multimedia presentations, but it's hard to begrudge them when these guide-books-on-disc provide their own sumptuous feasts for the eyes, the ears, and the imagination.

Mountain Images' Sierra Nevada covers the great parks, from Desolation Wilderness to Sequoia National Park, that are scattered like jewels amid the natural treasures of the Sierras.

You can plan your own excursions into the western wilderness or follow suggested paths. A colored line animates the route, while the multiwindow display also gives you descriptions, elevation profiles, and junction choices. Pick up the camera icon and click it against the map and up pops a gorgeous color picture of the actual locale -- and there are more than 2700 photos all linked to eye-catching features and trails.

Two areas that need improvement are sounds and the overall depth of the database. You can choose the music you'd like to accompany your virtual walk but, however melodic a bluesy sax might be, I would havepreferred an assortment of natural recordings (the breeze in the pines, the cry of a hawk, etc.) And just a few too many locations, albeit off the beaten track, merely displayed "no description available" -- so this information base needs filling out. Be that as it may, whether you're looking for a place to take a day hike or if you're planning a more ambitious expedition, this Sierra Nevada disc provides an excellent jumping-off point.