Book Reading

Time-Traveling Trail Guide

A new hiking guide tells the stories behind the terrain.

By Eric Scigliano October 19, 2010

History class on the Ozette beach loop.
Eric Scigliano

Imagine a hiking companion who knows a curious bit of forgotten lore about every brook and cranny on the trail—the old coal mine buried by thickets in that Issaquah ravine, who made the Sasquatch prints that used to scare skiers off Mount St. Helens, and how Dead Man’s Spring on the McLaughlin Trail got that name. (Hint: Its namesake took too long packing his gear one morning.) Imagine also that you could turn this eager raconteur on when you want to listen, and stuff ’em in your pack when you don’t. You’d have the new Hiking Washington’s History, “the history buff’s trail guide and the hiking buff’s history book”—a volume as diverting as it is useful, which author Judy Bentley will present at the downtown library this Thursday evening.

Travelers have long trudged around London, Paris, and even Los Angeles with literary maps and historical guides in hand; Bentley shows that the idea works as well in the Palouse and North Cascades. She annotates 41 routes around the state, giving just about as much geographical direction as you need and as much anecdotal detail as you can take in. Now you can slog out to Cape Disappointment with starving Lewis and Clark and imagine Clark’s amazement at seeing a Cathlamet canoe cutting across the Columbia’s stormy mouth, “through the highest waves I ever saw a Small vestles ride,” bearing life-saving salmon. My only disappointment is that Hiking Washington’s History arrived just after I completed Trail 2 on its list. Now I’m itching to go back and see what I missed.

Hiking Washington’s History, University of Washington Press, $18.95 paperback. Author Judy Bentley will read at the Seattle Public Library Thursday, Oct 21 at 6:30pm.

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