Thursday, May 05, 2011

Guidebook Authors I admire

I have always had a fondness for guidebook authors. What a cool job! And what authority they have about trails and places! Over the years I amassed quite a collection of guidebooks too, especially for my favorite areas; New England and the Pacific Northwest. But I also have books for places I only have traveled to once or twice; places like the Yukon, Argentina, Nevada, and Korea. When I moved to Washington State in 1989, I commenced to purchase nearly everything by Harvey Manning and Ira Spring. Never in my wildest dreams that I ever think that I would be following their legendary bootprints.

As I have gotten older, and have become an established guidebook author realizing the amount of work and commitment involved to put out an accurate and well written book-I turned a critical eye at other guidebooks. I found many are not well researched, not well written or presented--and a few left me wondering if their authors did indeed even hike the trails within their pages.

But, I am not here to rip on other authors. I prefer instead to call out authors I admire. It's funny, but some authors feel threatened by other guidebook authors--especially if they are writing about similar locales. But, I don't feel that way at all. A good guidebook author will present his or her own take on a location and present it from an entirely different angle from another writer. In which case any  "competing" books can actually enhance each other. I have felt that way with my titles compared to  "competitors" that I admire.

So whose books do I purchase and praise? William L. Sullivan of Oregon for one. He is THE authority for hiking in Oregon. And while his 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon covers the Columbia River Gorge, my Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge book covers so much more of the gorge that the two books are companions. Of course, Sullivan and I have different takes on the same hikes-and he, like me appreciates history and he has quite a knowledge of the stories behind the trails and places in his books.

I also admire Oregon-based writer Doug Lorain. And my upcoming Backpacking Washington Book is completely different than his backpacking Washington book. We have a couple of similar locations in our books-but once again focusing on different angles. And his book is meant more for longer distance trips and bigger excursions, while mine is focused more on weekend and week long trips.

I think Erik Molvar does a good job too, especially when it comes to details. I have both his Olympic and North Cascades books event though I am "competing" with him! My brother, Jeff does a great job covering New England and I always liked AMC's guidebooks which are more committee than author written. British Columbia based author Jack Bryceland I like too and his 103 Hikes in Southwestern British Columbia is a must for hiking BC.

Chis Townsend is another author I like. The Scottish based writer knows the Scottish Highlands and the Pyrenees where I guided for five seasons. But ironically the book of his I first bought was on the Yukon of all places. It's one of the few books written on hiking in the Yukon. Last September I met Chris on the trail! We shared a campsite together at Big Beaver Pass in the North Cascades National Park. I was researching my Backpacking Washington book and Chris was researching the Pacific Northwest Trail! Of course we had plenty to chat about over coffee (for me) and tea (for him)!

I met Bryceland in his hometown of Chilliwack during one of my presentations. We exchanged books! I haven't met Sullivan or Lorain yet-but just missed Lorain at Image Lake last summer by a week or so!Anyhow that's my take on my "competitors." I am always looking for a few more good guidebooks to add to my collection. Who are some of your favorite guidebook authors?

(Photo-guidebook writer Romano meets guidebook writer Townsend in the North Cascades backcountry-can you guess which one has been on the trail longer?!-photo by Ted Evans)

2 comments:

Randy said...

We have been reading Bill Sullivan's guidebooks for years. He is a great storyteller, the info in his books is impeccably accurate, and he never fails to discuss the history of an area, as well as the geology, the plants and animals, and so forth.

I was not familiar with your books until fairly recently. In fact, I just received your new Columbia Gorge book the other day. Based on what I have read so far, it appears that you are in the same league as Bill as a guidebook author.

As you mentioned, different authors' books complement one another, and that is certainly the case here. Any hiker who lives in greater Portland/Vancouver should own your new book as well as Bill's NW Oregon & SW Washington book. Each book has something special to offer.

Now back to reading your new book. Happy Trails!

bike tourer said...

Sullivan is really great. My favorite Oregon hike was to a waterfall in an old edition of his Coast Hikes book. I tried to go there last year again and the trail was gone and we got harassed by some loggers. I ended up emailing him to ask for more info and he knew all the details about how the timber land had changed hands and the new company was not allowing access. Sad that the hike is gone but it was really neat that he was so willing to take the time to communicate with me about why it had changed.