Monday, December 7, 2009

Keeping it real

In an article for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review last week, Paul g. Wiegman reviewed some regional trail and field guides for western Pennsylvania. Despite UpNorthica's recent fun and inspiring foray into the same area, I don't plan any trips there in the near future.

One section of the review jumped off the page for me. Wiegman points out exactly what we strive for in our North Shore guidebooks.

That last point of having lots of real field experience is important to consider when you are looking at any field or hiking guide.

There are guides written by authors who gather data from the Internet and other sources without doing much observing or hiking on the ground. The results are often misleading and downright wrong. As a precaution, when you are looking at a state or regionally specific guide, check the "About the Author" section to see where they are from and how much experience they have in that place. The more local the author, the more likely the book will have accurate information.

I've made some embarrassing errors in guidebooks when I've relied on second-hand information. When I absolutely have to use a map or another guidebook to describe some out-of-the-way ski trail I didn't actually ski myself, I lean on ambiguous, conservative language to get through. Here's a blog entry about this problem from early this year.

But I do live here, right on the Minnesota shore of Lake Superior. When I write about a trail or a campground or pie shop, 98.9% of the time I've been there. Recently. All geeked out with my Rite-in-the-Rain notebook, my GPS unit, etc.

Thanks, Mr. Wiegman, for pointing out what makes a great trail guide. Come to the lovely North Shore sometime and see what we've got. In person.

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