There is a new hiking guide, "Go Take a Hike: Hiking Tips and Outings for Seniors in Western Maine and the White Mountains" by Allen Crabtree, that I highly recommend.
This is auspicious, because you can actually pick up an autographed copy today, Saturday May 27 at International Mountain Equipment on Main Street in North Conway, where Crabtree will be signings books and meeting the public from 4 to 6 p.m.
If you are a senior hiker or aspiring senior hiker or would like to gift such a person with a useful hiking book, I recommend this one. Also if you a hiker of any age, this book is worth a place on your own outdoor bookshelf or that of a friend. It has many how-to hiking tips in the first half of the book that the author learned through years of experience. In the second half, the 75 recommended hikes are good and include ones that are not conveniently found anywhere else.
What else makes this guidebook stand out? Most guidebook authors don't include their own first-hand experience in their book quite the way Crabtree has done. The writing flows easily in the first person, and it is like you are out on a hike with the Denmark Mountain Hikers, the western Maine hiking group that he has led year round on Fridays for seven years and 1,300 miles.
Crabtree is 76. Hiking is one aspect of his life. He and his wife have run an antiquarian book business out of their Sebago home since 1983. He has written four books. His career included three years as director of New Hampshire Fish and Game, and environmental consulting out west. While in the Air Force in Germany, he led a Boy Scout Troop on hikes in the Alps. In wartime Vietnam, he worked in aerial photo processing. He "adopted" a Vietnamese family over there and has revisited four times since.
He is passionate about getting seniors out hiking. He taught a course in hiking for the Maine Senior College Network.
The idea of the book came from other members of Denmark Mountain Hikers. He had 200 hiking columns to choose from, the experience and the writing skills. He looked around for other books on senior hiking, and realized there was a need for a well-written one.
His fellow hikers were supportive. A couple in the group had been professional editors. It took two years to pick the individual suggested hikes and edit the hike descriptions, photos and topographic maps. Fellow hiker Nancy Sosman did the graphic design. Some of the smaller southwest Maine hikes are fairly unknown to most hikers.
It took another year to complete the first half of the book which covers all aspects of senior hiking, and includes interesting topics like: exercises for getting in shape beforehand; trail protocols; hiking with dogs and children; equipment for all seasons; emergencies; and picking a hike.
The first chapter, "Why we Hike," is a pleasant read and geared towards seniors. Yet everything in it would ring true for all hikers. "Inspirations," the unique second chapter, attests to the value of a group like the Denmark Mountain Hikers, and the enduring friendships found in such a group. The chapter includes a short hiking biography of six "Super Senior Hikers" in the group (a term taken from nearby Shawnee Peak Ski Area, where Super Senior Skiers get a reduced season pass). All six are unique and inspiring.
Rick Wilcox and his wife, Celia, have hiked with the Denmark Mountain Hikers. Wilcox is owner of International Mountain Equipment. Though not seniors, they have enjoyed winter hikes with the group into AMC huts like Zealand Falls Hut, which is a 6-mile hike in when the road is closed.
They have assisted the seniors when necessary, been informal guides, and enjoyed their company. Also, as Wilcox recently said, "They are fabulous cooks, and we always eat great at the hut."
As for Crabtree's book, Wilcox recommends it.
"It goes places that even the classic mountain handbook 'Freedom of the Hills' doesn't go. For example, a heart attack and subsequent death on the trail."
Again, come to International Mountain Equipment today from 4 to 6 p.m. to meet Crabtree and buy a signed copy of "Go Take a Hike!"
Also for those interested, the Denmark Mountain Hikers get out in the trail most Fridays, and they welcome new hikers. For more information, contact Allen Crabtree at DenmarkMtHiker@gmail.com.