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Q&A with Craig Romano: Washington's '100 Classic Hikes' Guidebook, Rebooted

Posted by Loren D at Jun 08, 2016 05:45 PM |
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Mountaineers Books will launch a gorgeous 3rd edition of "100 Classic Hikes in Washington" and the new edition is far more than a refresh.

100 Classic Hikes of Washington
100 Classic Hikes of Washington, 3rd Edition by Craig Romano. Published by Mountaineers Books.

In 1966*, The Mountaineers published 100 Hikes in Western Washington. Written by Louise Marshall, the landmark guidebook was one of the first hiking guidebooks published for Washington. Nearly 30 years later, Ira Spring and Harvey Manning (who had contributed photographs to Marshall's 100 Hikes) revisited the list in 100 Classic Hikes in Washington.

Next week, Mountaineers Books will launch a gorgeous 3rd edition of 100 Classic Hikes, written by Craig Romano, one of Washington's most trusted modern guidebook authors. (Get information about attending the Seattle launch event on June 14.)

And the new edition is far more than a refresh. It celebrates the incredible beauty of the state. Novice hikers will have trouble deciding where to start, and experienced hikers may find themselves rediscovering the state they already love to hike in.

What's changed?

Let's start with the hikes included. For the first time, the Classic Hikes takes into consideration the whole of Washington, including new hikes from the Columbia River Gorge, the San Juan Islands, Central Washington, and Eastern Washington. Ours is a state rich in different hiking experiences, and this edition covers them all.

Romano has included a new introduction that acts as a terrific primer about the basic logistics and safety of hiking in Washington. And of course, the detailed, practical hike descriptions, full color topographic reference maps and photos have been also been replaced.

What's the same?

While Romano has his own distinct voice, he, like the other authors, come at this edition as a tireless advocate for trails. He's traveled every inch of the trails he covers in this book, and that passion for protecting and enjoying them infuses his prose.

We recently sat down to chat with Romano about the new guidebook, and the positive impacts he hopes it will have on a new generation of hikers in Washington.

The 100 Classic Hikes is something of a classic itself. Were you at all nervous about revisiting a hiking guide that holds such a big place on the bookshelves and in the hearts of so many Washington hikers?

No! The big thing is honor. I am honored to be taking on this project.

If anything, what I'm finding now is the because the state has grown so much and hiking scene is changing, sadly a lot of people don't even know who Manning and Spring are and are not aware of their incredible contributions to conservation and trails in our state. So in many cases, I think I am going to be introducing these legends to whole new group of hikers.

When I moved out here in 1989, I pretty much bought all their books. I read them cover to cover, and would go out to see how many I could do. They resonate with me; I felt a kind of connection to them. I never met these guys, but I have a strong conservation ethic, too.

This is a different time, and the hiking scene is different. We are dealing with different challenges now. I have a toddler, so I am definitely invested in this new generation. I don't want to feel like I am just seeing things through the eyes of the 70's and the 80's, because there's a lot of positive things happening now. For one, the hiking community is more inclusive. More and more people are getting out from different backgrounds. And even though population has exploded, and we've certainly had some conservation setbacks, we've also had a lot of successes, too.

In recent times, there's been a big push to build more trails, thanks to groups like WTA. And there are a lot more urban fringe type trails now, too.

One of the most exciting things about the new edition is that it truly considers the whole of Washington state. How did you approach selecting the 50 new trails as classics?

I wanted to get a full representation of the outdoors of Washington. All four corners of the state are represented.

When you're looking at Puffer Butte, which is in the southeast corner of the state where Idaho, Oregon and Washington all mix; it's an incredibly diverse area. Obviously its not the same thing as Mount Rainier -- it's a very different area of the state, but it's just as ecologically rich.

I've included Mount Si, which might be one of the most argued-about entries. Si is the type of place where a lot of people will be introduced to hiking and the outdoors for the first time. It's a gateway hike. These are places where people can get hooked and become those good conservation and trail stewards. We don't have a lot of collective experiences anymore, and Si might be that collective hike that just about everyone in the state has done.

I'm always down in the [Columbia River] Gorge, Eastern Washington, the San Juan Islands and even Puget Sound. I've put Ebey's Landing in there, which I think is one of the most incredible hikes in Puget Sound. And in the Tri-Cities, Badger Mountain is a trail that didn't even exist 10 years ago, but it's an instant classic, in one of the most interesting, fastest-growing parts of the state.

You've hiked and written about so many amazing trails around the state, it must have been hard to whittle the choices down. Are there one or two that it pained you to leave out?

I toyed with putting Discovery Park in there, because it is a classic urban trail. And, on the opposite end of the spectrum, perhaps Cathedral Lakes. But when you are looking at what makes a classic, those are both classics.

Of the original 100, 50 of the original hikes are still included as legacy hikes. What is it about these trails, do you think, that makes them enduring and iconic experiences?

Like classic rock, classic literature and classic film, a classic hike should be a superb representation that captures the full essence of our outdoors and outdoor experiences.

It's about how timeless they are. The way they touch the soul. What they represent, and that they represent more than what you're looking at.

I can return to them over and over again. Everything in this book; they are places I'll go back to, places I'll take my son, places I'll take my family and friends.

There are a lot more people interested in hiking Washington's trails than ever before -- and classic trails tend to see even more visitors than average. What will keep these experiences as special for future generations as they are right now?

I know that WTA and I share the same mission: we want our trails to be accessible. We want our wild places to be accessible. But we want the users, myself, everyone included, to be responsible. And sometimes that means we have to restrict ourselves.

There are many times when I've been out in crowded areas, but if people are respecting nature and doing the right thing, it can be a great experience.

You want people to go out on the trails, but you also want people to be good stewards of the lands. If people read my book, there is a conservation ethic there.

*1966 turned out to be a standout year for hikers. Louise Marshall also founded The Signpost that year, which, with the help of Ira Spring, would eventually grow into the Washington Trails Association of today.