Trails for everyone, forever

Home News Blog What It Takes to Research and Write 500 Hikes for WTA

What It Takes to Research and Write 500 Hikes for WTA

Posted by Anna Roth at Dec 14, 2018 06:35 PM |
Filed under:

WTA's hiking guide content manager, Anna Roth, just finished writing her 500th hike. She reflects on highs, lows and what she's learned.

Earlier this year, a colleague asked me how many hikes in WTA's hiking guide I'd written. I wasn't sure. I realized I'd never counted. When I did, I was stunned to see the answer: 500 entries in the four years I've been managing the hiking guide.

Of course, my job is to update and improve the hiking guide. But a lot of my day-to-day work is small updates.

I evaluate and post corrections submitted by hikers and trip reporters. I work with land managers to ensure the information about the trails they manage is accurate, and I keep alerts current during wildfire and washout seasons. These small steps are instrumental to it being a useful tool for hikers, but in any given week, I make many more small corrections than I write new trail guides.

jolly mountain_anna roth.jpeg
A burned-out trail sign near Jolly Mountain from my last research trip this year. Photo by Anna Roth.

I also spend a lot of time editing new trail entries by our team of volunteer Hiking Guide Correspondents. They are my boots, eyes and brain when I can't be on trail, and I'm lucky to have them. They hike, research and write; I edit and post their submissions. (Collectively, this team of 30 people has written 832 hikes since I've been managing them. On a weekly basis, I publish many more of their write-ups on the site than I publish my own.)

Fact-checking and cross-referencing the correspondents, trip reports and user submissions is so important to me that the 500 original entries I have written surprised me. When did I have time for that?

I only take a few weeks each year dedicated solely to research and hike write-ups. Managing a database is primarily an office job, after all, and heading out into the field for five days means the daily updates get backlogged quickly. So I only plan a few weeks a year to immerse myself in my own trail research. 

trip reports statewide.JPG
But you better believe I make the most of those trips. Look at all those trip reports!

Each research trip (one per quarter) consists of five days of hiking and writing. On those trips, I'm gathering updated information for hikes all over Washington, and helping improve WTA's hiking guide, which so many hikers rely on year-round.

Despite all that time researching, it wasn't until I found that answer for my coworker that I realized how many experiences of the last five years of my life were directly connected to those research trips. I've made memories. I've faced challenges, disappointments, and accomplished things I didn't expect to. 

wet feet_anna roth.jpeg
I've also hiked through ankle-high (or deeper) water more times than anyone really probably should. Photo by Anna Roth. 

I've learned to sleep in my car (a much drier option than tent camping when you're in a five-day torrential rainstorm). I've had a character-building tick encounter (though I'm still really scared of them). I've overworked my body and raced the sun to the trailhead (more than once). I've been grumpy when a carefully-planned route disappoints. This has also happened more than once

Though I'm usually alone on these trips, I've also hiked with coworkers and other friends. I've spent five days researching close-to-town trails, and I've hiked more miles and elevation in one day than I thought I could. I've even gotten to do life-list loops. I've revisited old favorites, checked off childhood dream hikes, and discovered new beauty near my hometown. And by this point, I've been to every corner of the state

bear creek mountain_anna roth.jpeg
I'm fine hiking alone, but having someone, like my colleague Rachel Wendling, to share a summit view with is A+. Photo by Anna Roth. 

Believe it or not, I'm still learning how long planning an efficient, mileage-maximizing trip takes (always more than one day). Rougher-than-expected Forest Service roads still slow me down when I'm underway, but more often it's overestimating how fast I can hike. My next trip will be sometime this winter, and I'll use what I've learned so far to plan another exciting, educational and inspiring trip.

And here's one more thing I've learned. Maintaining WTA's hiking guide is, in fact, just like hiking. Editing my correspondents' scrupulously researched contributions? That's a walk in the park. Researching other updates takes a little more research and the 10 essentials of hiking guide editing (a plagiarism checker, several sources to confirm the data's correct ... you get the idea).

Researching and writing my own hikes — that's more like a backpacking trip. It takes a detailed itinerary, careful packing, time for breaks, and a good stretch once in a while. I've also learned it's important to stop and take stock as you go.

Because you might look up and realize, "Hey, I've walked 500 miles."


austineats on What It Takes to Research and Write 500 Hikes for WTA

Congrats on your first 500! Sounds kind of dream-job'ish.

Posted by:

austineats on Dec 17, 2018 08:17 AM

Muledeer on What It Takes to Research and Write 500 Hikes for WTA

Nice job! I hope you get to take some hikes just for fun occasionally, without needing to do any research.

Posted by:

Muledeer on Dec 17, 2018 03:53 PM

dreamingsunshine on What It Takes to Research and Write 500 Hikes for WTA

Thank you for all the work you and your team do. I'm consistently surprised by how accurate and helpful the trail entries are. I really appreciate it!

Posted by:

Jennifer28 on Dec 19, 2018 01:10 PM

Anna Roth on What It Takes to Research and Write 500 Hikes for WTA

Thank you all for your kind words! austineats and Muledeer -- it's a pleasure working with you both, and yes, I do get to do some fun hikes, too!
moresunnydays, thank you so much for your positivity about the guide. It's always nice to know when people find it useful. I couldn't do it without my team. :)

Posted by:

Anna Roth on Jan 02, 2019 05:26 PM