HIKING 600 MILES. What it takes to write a guidebook, Part 1

Lisa Ballard Adirondacks

By LOWA Ambassador Lisa Ballard. Read part 2 here

Was I surprised in the fall of 2020 when Falcon Guides asked me to write a 3rd edition of my book, Hiking the Adirondacks, my tenth hiking guidebook in the northeastern United States. The 2nd edition was only three years old. Hiking trails are relatively permanent fixtures on the landscape, especially in a place like the Adirondack Park in upstate New York, where much of the backcountry is designated wilderness. It’s rugged country, with dense, gnarled undergrowth below tree line and where moving a grain of dirt often requires a lengthy permitting process. Had the trails changed enough in just three years to justify this update?

But the book was a good seller, and if I didn’t do it, my publisher would find someone else. On the bright side, what a great reason to go hiking a lot!

And I really mean a lot. My publisher gives me two years to put together a hiking guidebook, but that’s not a full two years. Nowadays, I’m in the Adirondacks for July and August. Over two years, that’s only about 120 days to hike about 60 routes, of which the best 50 make the cut. The math is pretty straightforward. I need to be on the trail three to four days per week.


Adirondacks by Lisa Ballard

Then there’s the not-so-small issue of the size of the park – six million acres or one-fifth of the state of New York. It’s three times the size of Yellowstone National Park! Writing this guidebook requires not only a lot of trail time, but also travel to trailheads. Sometimes, I lose out to stormy weather, and I need to time to write, generate maps and process photos after each hike.

Some days on the trail are huge, 15-miles or longer on vertical, eroded terrain. Other days are easier, under five miles, so I might climb two mountains on those days.

Writing this guidebook is a two-summer ultra-marathon, or about 300 miles on the trail per summer. A challenge? Sure, but it’s an enjoyable one, because my two most important tools, my feet, are happy, thanks to Lowa. I rotate my footwear among the Innox Pro Lo W on the easier routes, Mauria GTX on the longest, roughest routes, and Renegade GTX W for everything in between. Supported, blister-free feet allow me to embrace the exertion and the chance to explore.

In Part II of this blog, I’ll take you up a few of my most memorable adventures while working on Hiking the Adirondacks, 3rd Edition, giving you a unique sneak peek ahead of the book’s release in June.