If you hike in Washington state, it’s likely you have, or have used, a guidebook by Craig Romano. Hailing from New England, Craig’s wanderlust began at an early age when he was inspired by the many guidebooks he read. “I just love being outdoors,” he says. “Put me in a natural place anywhere and I am happy.” As a writer and an adventurer in the Northwest, he found that he wanted to do the same—inspire others and help them find great hiking opportunities. In addition to trail descriptions, he especially likes to provide his readers with interesting natural and cultural history, and promote a strong sense of conservation and trail advocacy. He states, “I want to help my readers get the most out of their adventures.”
What do you enjoy most about writing hiking guidebooks?
Romano: Without a doubt—the research! I absolutely love life when I am on a trail! And nothing is more exciting than hiking a place for the first time. I also enjoy doing all of the background research after hiking, mapping and photographing a location. This includes looking into the history of the area, checking to see if rare plants or animals live there, and discovering if there is something unique to the environment.
What is the most challenging aspect of writing hiking guidebooks?
Romano: Deadlines and editing! I have been writing two books a year lately which is incredibly demanding. Trying to fit the research in (especially when the weather isn’t cooperating), writing and editing, plus all of my other demands as a freelancer for magazines, websites and tourism agencies. Add to that being a good father and husband. It can all be stressful. Folks meet me on the trail and tell me they want my job. They think that all I do is hike! I wish! I figure I only spend about a third of my time hiking. The rest of that time is either in front of a computer, marketing and doing presentations. Editing is so meticulous and labor intensive, but so important. My books get edited multiple times and reviewed by many eyes. I get tired after going through a 90,000-word manuscript for the 7th time. But it is so integral to making a good guidebook.
What do you hope your readers will gain from your guidebooks?
Romano: A sense of excitement and wanderlust to discover new places. Perhaps motivation to physically challenge themselves. And for them to become good stewards of the land. I want them to advocate for trails and parks, too. And I hope they check out the path less chosen. My books are loaded with so many lightly-traveled paths that are just as exciting—if not, more so—than many of the boot-beaten overused trails.
What is your advice for people who are just discovering hiking and the outdoors?
Romano: Do your research! Pick up a good guidebook, flip through it and find what tickles your fancy. Make sure you are properly fitted with good footwear and equipment. Know your limitations. Start off easy and work your way up to bigger challenges over time. Always keep a sense of excitement and intrigue. And keep an open mind. You’d be surprised at how beautiful and rejuvenating a prairie in Saskatchewan or a forest in New Jersey can be, too. Not every trail, hike and destination has to be epic. There is beauty throughout the natural world and so much of what you get out of it is from within you.
Where is your favorite place to hike when you’re not doing it for “work?”
Romano: Definitely New England where I grew up. I return frequently and especially love hiking and discovering new places in my home state of New Hampshire. Having grown up in such a rural state with so many great outdoors opportunities has made me the person I am. New England is an incredibly inspirational place too—and many of my favorite writers (Thoreau, Frost) are New Englanders. I also love hiking in Canada, especially Quebec. It’s like New England and France blended together and such a great joie de vivre!