Saturday, April 9, 2016

H is for Hiking Guides

Hiking guides, like cookbooks and bilingual dictionaries, are reference materials I can become deeply nostalgic about.  My parents had one with pressed flowers between the pages, full of tiny black and white pictures that did very little to clarify the text.  The back cover showed the writer, a woman with long blonde hair and a large camera.  This was long enough ago that I was somewhat impressed that a woman had written a hiking guide.  We tended to take the same trails year in and year out, but occasionally we'd get out the guide for directions to a long-forgotten trailhead, or to find a hike in a different area than usual.

When I turned thirty, my parents gave me my own hiking guide, Russ Schnieder's Hiking the Columbia River Gorge.  I was newly back in Oregon and trying to take advantage of that, so I was delighted.  Enjoying "The Great Outdoors" was also a value my parents had tried to instill in all of us, and I always got a kick out of how pleased they were when we demonstrated it had worked.  I started tracking the hikes I took, jotting down the date, my companions, and notes about the hike itself in the margins of the book.

I like Schneider's style.  His directions are clear and thorough, and his trail notes are personable without crossing the line into becoming essays about his own experiences.  The photos are larger and thus easier to see than the ones from my parents' book.  I went on a bit of a outdoors guide binge in my thirties, ending up with hiking guides to different parts of the state, backpacking guides, a guide to wildflower hikes, wildflower and bird identification guides, one on tent camping sites, and one about trails and campsites near lakes where motors are banned.  None of them ever got the use that the Columbia Gorge book did.

Time has rolled on.  I don't hike nearly as much anymore, although every year I swear I'm going to change that.  Some of the trails in my book have been affected by time, weather, and politics.  Dogs that accompanied me on earlier hikes have died, as have my parents.  The internet has made this type of guide mostly obsolete anyway.  Still, Hiking the Columbia River Gorge will be on my shelf for the rest of my life.  


  1. I love hiking guides...and climbing guides. I grew up hiking in the Adirondacks of New York and I have this beautifully worn guidebook. I love seeing the slight water damage and the ear-marked pages. Thanks for your post.

  2. Our family LOVES hiking! Unfortunately, there's nowhere to hike where we live so we have to go on vacations to experience it, but we do that as often as we can!!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  3. Years ago when I used to do a lot of hiking, I used to buy hiking guides. I guess I probably still have some of them around my house, but I doubt whether I'll ever be using such guides anymore.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

  4. Hello from A to Z. I like to hike too and a guide such as this is useful so we know how not to get lost while we're out there.

  5. My favorite is "Yellowstone Day Hikes" from my Accomplice's and my years in the national park. Since he's from The Willamette Valley, you and he were almost neighbors. =)

    Boldly Going Through the Alphabet!
    Part-Time Minion for Holton's Heroes
    shanjeniah's Lovely Chaos

  6. Pretty cool. I happen to live in the Columbia River Gorge Tri-Cities area and have been thinking about hiking but I'm new to the area and wasn't sure where to look. thanks!


Please share your thoughts. Comments are almost as sweet as chocolate!