Hiking the process of writing a guidebook.
As with any new adventure, you of course, don't know what you don't know, and as I'm working on two new guidebooks to add to "Hiking and Snowshoeing the Greater Sunapee Region" it seemed appropriate to go over the process I'm using to write the books, and my mission in bringing these guidebooks to you. As a person who had spent much of his young life outdoors, the onset of my thirties, was a bit of a settling. Into life, job, kiddos and a mostly sedentary daily life. Sure, I hiked a little, played some soccer etc.. but nothing like the days of my youth. As my metabolism slowed, so also did my desire to push the athletic envelope. But as my forties neared, my need to be athletic, outdoors and attuned to nature came back with a vengeance. The conclusion for me became get happy, get outdoors, take pictures of things I found beauty in, and share that.
One of the things I had an understanding of was the great amount of hiking/walking trails in the region I live in and how there was not a guide that compiled these in any way. Different organizations, towns, and groups did a great job with these trails, both maintaining and promoting the trail systems(The Sunapee, Ragged, Kearsarge Greenway jumps to mind). But there wasn't really a single source for the region. So if you came here on vacation, what could be your resource? For locals, it was easy to settle into the trails you used all the time, why experiment when you had some places that worked for you.
So I started going to these trails, taking pictures, and talking to the hikers who walked them. I was getting outside, getting more fit and losing that little belly I'd found in my thirties. For a nordic ski racer who at one time easily burned 5000 calories a day, it was pretty easy to gain that paunch. As I did this, I started to notice a couple of things, I had a great camera to learn photography with, a Sony Mirrorless, which is a combination of a standard DSLR and a camera with the very best of auto functions and with the ability to learn my way through both styles of photography at the same time. You can see my camera and lenses at the bottom of the post. I also seemed to have a knack for finding situations, timing, light etc.. and with putting myself in good positions and settings, fun to look at pictures seemed to follow. At this time I also purchased a small aerial camera, a photo drone, to try and highlight some different viewpoints and because it was a fun addition to the hikes. I also noticed that so many of these folks I encountered seemed to have a dog. I hadn't had a dog since I was in High School, and I didn't realize how much I had missed having a pet. So I started to look around and see about a pup, and what I found out is you don't pick a dog, your dog picks you. From the first moment of meeting Gibbs, it was obvious, this was my hiking buddy.
So after doing the hikes, researching and talking to everyone I could about them, I had to decide how to come up with the trail selection for the guidebook. I wanted the guide to be carry-able, colorful and vibrant, with lots of photos of the area and have at least a week's worth of hikes and walks. I wanted to make sure to hit the hikes that you might come to this region to do as well as some hidden gems that are maybe often missed by the vacationer and local alike. I also just wanted to inspire others to just start to "opt outdoors". I believe that you can find anything you're looking for by spending time in nature. Things like sense of purpose, gratefulness, and peace of mind. Some meditate or do yoga, or even read, but for me the best path to what has seemed to bring me happiness is simply to go and find the beauty of the great outdoors. When I am shooting a scene, or just simply observing a vista, especially after pushing my body a little, the rest of the world, the stresses and worries, just seem to fade away. I found myself saying to others all the time, "Hey, check this out.." simply because it felt important to share those moments. That process of selection that ensued was a difficult one, to balance the surrounding towns, to provide something comprehensive, but at the same time to have aesthetic simplicity and something that was never unwieldy to carry. I always remember trying to carry around those big Disney guidebooks in the parks and how difficult that was.
The last piece of the puzzle for me was to figure out how to publish and sell the book, luckily I have some amazing resources in my family. Vermont nature artist and designer, Nancy Revoir Dezotell, (www.nancydezotell.com) and my cousin Barry, owner of House-Mouse Designs, (www.house-mouse.com)
Their design help and guidance helped me to choose self-publishing through CreateSpace rather than navigating the process of going through a standard publisher, where I would have lost many of the controls, and while this part of the process was definitely the most difficult, ultimately the end product is mine. At this same time, I was figuring out how to start, build and find a website host and after much research, I settled on Wix, a template based, drag and drop, website design company and this is something I am quite proud of, I was able to handle every aspect of building the site myself. I am thrilled at this point with my experience here, I believe I have an attractive and functional site with an easy to shop web store, and I have a site that I can work on and improve on a daily basis without outsourcing or spending additional money on design.
So there have been many challenges and yes, like the hiker above, a few times I have fallen flat on my face. But all in all, owning something like this completely start to finish, taking the risks required to find some ultimate happiness, and driving myself to get outdoors and experience life, have been the most personally rewarding experiences I can remember.