2017-07-13 / Editorial

A good guidebook makes the difference

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by Melanie Taylor Coombs

Those who know me (or are Facebook friends with me), know I love to spend most of my free time outdoors, hiking, biking, kayaking and paddleboarding. How do books fit with an active lifestyle? A really good guidebook can make the difference between surviving and not surviving in the wilds of Maine. It is important to know about trail conditions, rapids ratings and dangerous wildlife.

In two cases, I have run out of water on hiking trails. This is never a good thing. The first time, I had been sharing water with an unprepared teen hiker on Katahdin’s Hunt Trail. The second time, I was hiking the Bigelow Range on a blazingly hot day. Both times I decided to drink untreated water in lieu of dehydration. Fortunately, I did not get giardia or any of the plethora of water borne diseases that may come from drinking unfiltered water.

Generally speaking, I carry too much gear when hiking. My daypack includes a tightly packed waterproof emergency kit, a water bladder, bag of food, extra socks and additional clothes needed for weather and higher elevations. And always, I stress this, always, I have a recent guide book and map with me.

A good guidebook will give you trailhead parking information, maps, photos and detailed descriptions of elevation gains and trail conditions. For backpacking or longer hikes, a guide will include information on where a hiker can resupply food and get water. It is scary to see people completely unprepared on the trails. Several years, ago my hiking companion and I started up Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, quickly passing a family of five carrying no water and wearing flip-flops. It was 95 degrees in the middle of a sweltering summer day. We never knew if they made it to the top or returned to the trailhead, but they were not prepared for even a relatively easy climb. To this day, I will not forget my fear and worry for them.

Two friends and I hiked one of the most traversed mountains in New Hampshire on Columbus Day weekend a few years ago. On the way down, the trail became a highway of tourists – people visiting New England for the fall foliage and bused in to “try” real hiking. Very near the parking area we passed a young woman clinging to the arm of her beau. She was wearing very fashionable sequined ballet flats and carrying a Hello Kitty purse straight armed in front of her like a talisman. Needless to say, they turned around about 50 yards down the trail.

Recently, I became familiar with a hiking group called Trail Dames. The group encourages women of a curvy nature to get out and enjoy the trails. I met some great ladies the day I hiked with them. It was a very slow paced 5-mile walk along the Mountain Division Trail. Many of the attendees were brand new to hiking. The leader gave tips along the way. That group gave me the inspiration to invite Maine hiking guidebook author, Greg Westrich to McArthur Library. He will be here at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 13 to share his wonderful pictures from around our lovely state. It will be a great opportunity to meet other hikers and to talk to a trail expert.

Greg is the author of several guides, “Best Easy Day Hikes, Greenville, Maine,” “Best Easy Day Hikes Portland, Maine,” “Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park,” “Hiking Maine” and “Best Easy Day Hikes, Camden, Maine.” These guides are easy to follow and have great pictures. If you want a preview, please visit www.gregwestrich.com and check out the photos and videos. Please come by for the program. As always, events at McArthur Library are free and open to the public. See you on the trails. Melanie Taylor Coombs is adult services supervisor/librarian at McArthur Public Library in Biddeford.

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