60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver, Mindy Sink, Menasha Ridge Press, Betasso Preserve

Thoughts on Shadowing a Guidebook Author

We consulted our notes. To the left, through the trees, down a set of stairs conveniently built into the side of a hill. Follow the trail to a…road. Dead end. Retrace our steps. Reset the GPS. Try again.

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver, Mindy Sink, Menasha Ridge Press, Betasso Preserve

Don’t use these stairs.

Writing a guidebook, a trusted resource to lead you through the backcountry and day-use areas, through historic neighborhoods and over mountain passes, on easy trails and almost non-existent trails, is hard. I have been working with guidebook authors for over four years and never quite understood what it takes to write a guidebook. Until now.

Mindy Sink is the author of Walking Denver and is currently revising 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver/Boulder. Which actually means going on closer to 70 hikes, selecting the best of the best, rating them in various categories, mapping them, and writing about them. Whew.

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver, Mindy Sink, Menasha Ridge Press, Betasso Preserve

Mindy consulting the guidebook.

I used my time at Outdoor Retailer in July as an opportunity to go play—I mean, go on an educational excursion to observe what researching a hike entails. Mindy and I drove away from Denver (but still within 60 miles, of course), above Boulder, and out to Betasso Preserve, a scenic and easy trail system for hikers and mountain bikers and mountain lions alike.

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver, Mindy Sink, Menasha Ridge Press, Betasso Preserve

Here kitty kitty kitty…

It was slightly damp outside, so Mindy and I donned our raincoats (why you should always come prepared!) and set off on our loop. In the wrong direction. Which is a great example of why it’s difficult to be a guidebook author—they make wrong turns so that you don’t have to!

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver, Mindy Sink, Menasha Ridge Press, Betasso Preserve

Sunshowers.

As far as hikes go, the Betasso hike was an easy one to research. It’s one big loop on a well-marked and well-maintained trail. We would pause every few minutes so that Mindy could consult her GPS and previous edition of the guidebook, making note of any changes. I have the easy job of soaking in the views while taking photos and videos. I also questioned Mindy incessantly about the particulars of researching a hike—how do you select the various ratings, do you use a thesaurus to vary your descriptions, do you ever give up mid-hike, how do you not get tired of hiking?

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver, Mindy Sink, Menasha Ridge Press, Betasso Preserve

Smooth trails for days.

It rained a little, then it rained a lot, then it stopped raining and as if on cue, a beautiful rainbow stretched over the view of downtown Boulder. We saw a variety of late-season wildflowers, families of deer, and some interesting moss. We saw zero mountain lions.

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver, Mindy Sink, Menasha Ridge Press, Betasso Preserve

Late season wildflowers gracing the trail.

Hiking with Mindy was eye-opening. I now have a greater appreciation for the books I hold in my hand when I set off onto the trails. This hike may have been simple, but there’s always some risk involved when you venture into the wilderness. Guidebook authors have a great responsibility to be as accurate as possible and to have precise mapping to keep us safe. #Nopressure.

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver, Mindy Sink, Menasha Ridge Press, Betasso Preserve

Also, it’s hard to take jaw-dropping photos of every trail that distinguish it from every other similar trail nearby. Take it from me.

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver, Mindy Sink, Menasha Ridge Press, Betasso Preserve

Research and rainbows.

Tanya Twerdowsky
tanya@adventurewithkeen.com
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