Saturday, March 6, 2010

After the glory days of hiking, the real work begins

It's a sunny day in early March and I really should be out skiing right about now, as last night's crust softens in the sun. Instead, I'm inside working on Hiking the North Shore. Specifically, I'm working on the maps. The work takes me back to some mighty fine days on the trail, and I enjoy the process of turning my memories into the printed page.

Last fall, September 29 to be exact, I hiked the popular section of the Superior Hiking Trail known as Section 13, near Little Marais and Finland. It was a gorgeous fall day. A big windstorm the day before had dropped trees across the trail. I let the GPS unit record my journey, and it gave me 380 dots in a long and squiggly line. It was as if I'd dropped bread crumbs along the trail, and finally I'm picking them back up again.

I download all this GPS data in Garmin RoadTrip, an infuriating program that finally filled a massive Mac OS GIS gap. I went back through that hike nearly step by step, eliminating all but the most relevant of those little dots. There are 43 dots left.

This is part of the long slog of turning field research into a book. Hiking the trail is the funnest part. But I enjoy these hours on the GIS program too. They take me back to lovely days over the last two years.

There's where I doubled back for a photo opp.

Here's where the poodle and I stopped for lunch...and she learned to beg for PBJ sandwich bites.

THAT'S where I got on the wrong trail.

Going through this process of focus and clarification makes me all the more appreciative of my lovely wife and publishing partner, Sally. She does way more of the detailed, focused work than I do, AND she didn't get much of the fun part at all. Of the 50 hikes that will be in the book, she came along on 8 or 10 of the research trips.

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