After finishing the manuscript for Afoot and Afield, I found myself struggling with the gaping hole leftover from no longer having a bunch of field work in front of me. I was glad I had finished the manuscript (there’s still plenty of work to be done on it), but I had found that not having a project was making me feel a little flat and uninspired. For me, there’s something about having a big project full of exploration and learning that really lights me up.
No sooner had I sent off Dropbox links for the manuscript, map data, and imagas had I written and submitted a proposal to write a guidebook for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park for a different publisher. The project was intended to be a fairly comprehensive guide for both parks and the adjacent John Muir Wilderness areas in Inyo National Forest. As time wore on, I decided to let that proposal go for a variety of reasons I won’t get into. I also became interested in a project on the Hawaiian Islands, which I briefly discussed as an option but ultimately shelved until next summer due to a bunch of other factors.
That left me with a solid proposal, along with trail data for about 40 routes covering Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Inyo. The book I’m looking to write has about 120 routes, with 20-25 of those routes being extended backcountry routes. Without lifting a finger, I had already conducted a third of the field work. I had GPS data, notes, and photographs from over 4 years of hiking in both areas. I had amassed a decent bit of knowledge about the park’s history, ecology, and geology just out of general interest in the subject, and I had already been dreaming of different routes I could plot through the backcountry for years.
But without a publisher, my suspicion was that all of that information would ultimately be placed into Modern Hiker articles. Now, as much as I love writing or Modern Hiker, I preferred doing a book. With a book, there’s a major project that I have to devote a substantial amount of attention to, whereas I tend to write Modern Hiker articles in sporadic bursts when there’s time.
I would never get around to covering all of this for Modern Hiker, given all of the other obligations that would take my attention. Writing a book however is a serious obligation in its own right, even when it’s an independent effort. I love having an overarching goal to lock onto, and I found myself being unable to let go of the idea of working on a book. The bottom line is that it is too much fun. I learn too much, see too much, and spend too much time outside in beautiful places not to be hooked.
Despite not having a publishing deal and in the full awareness of just how much work this is going to take, I am now embarking on a project where I will write a fairly comprehensive guide for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, create all of the maps, create the book format and layout, and self-publish it as a printed book and an e-book. While having a book contract is fantastic fun, and I can’t wait to work with Wilderness Press more on Afoot and Afield and other titles, the process of doing it all myself is enormously appealing.
The focus of this blog will therefore shift toward covering the process of creating the book, including the hurdles, foot pain, foul language, 14 hour hiking days, and pre-dawn sunrise vigils that come with such work.