Craig Romano, renowned author of over 20 popular backpacking and hiking guidebooks covering the Pacific Northwest, made a special trip to Tri-Cities last week.
Along with Sharon Grant from Friends of Badger Mountain and Trailmaster Jim Langdon, we met at the trailhead and embarked on Romano’s first hike up the Candy Mountain Trail.
He expressed his admiration for the conservation efforts and achievements being made locally as we walked and talked while taking in the views and spectacular scenery. With skies blue and wildflowers in full bloom, and as he stopped to take pictures, he was fascinated by the amazing array of educational plant identification flags placed by Gretchen Graber from the Columbia Basin Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society.
He was delighted to see the Poop Angel signs placed along the trail through a joint effort of Fun Fit and Over Fifty and the Friends of Badger Mountain.
Romano grew up in rural New Hampshire, worked as a ski bum in Vermont and then as a backcountry ranger in the White Mountain National Forest. He received an Associate of Arts in Forestry from White Mountains Community College, moved to Washington state in 1989, and received a Bachelor or Arts in History and a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Washington.
His prolific outdoor writing career began in earnest in 2004 with the publication of “Best Wildflower Hikes: Washington”, which he co-authored with Ira Spring, Karen Sykes and Arthur Kruckeberg.
Since then, he has written more than 20 hiking guides, published dozens of articles in national magazines, and become a legend in the Pacific Northwest for his knowledge and expertise about hiking and the outdoors.
He’s logged over 20,000 miles in Washington alone and is nearing 30,000 for total lifetime mileage.
“I am pretty much out year-round, and heavily on the trails from May through October,” Romano said. “I hike around 1,000 miles a year; and when you add my running mileage in, I am averaging 2,000 miles a year on foot.”
As a prolific outdoors writer who also had a stint as a mountain guide, Romano has had some amazing experiences on the trail and gotten to work with some famous folks.
One of his most memorable experiences was being on assignment with two Parks Canada biologists in the Georgian Bay Islands National Park in Ontario to catch and survey endangered massasauga rattlesnakes.
Then there was a time when he was hiking on a backcountry trail with his brothers in the Swift Current area of Glacier National Park in Montana, and a disoriented Grizzly cub came out of the bush mewing and stumbling up the ridge toward them. They froze, knowing that momma was nearby, and sure enough, she too came out of the brush, took one look, raised up and howled at them. The cub came to his senses and headed away, and they slowly and steadily backed away.
Romano smiles and remembers the time he and his wife Heather guided Lynda Bird Johnson (President Lyndon Johnson’s daughter) and her husband, Chuck Robb, (former governor and senator of Virginia), along with their entourage of Beltway friends on a multi-day hiking trip in the French Pyrenees.
“Trying as hard as I could to avoid certain subjects, we still ended up talking history and politics and happily about raising kids,” Romano said. “My wife’s ability to speak French came in handy when Lynda tried to make a phone call to Lady Bird.”
If you are just getting started hiking, Romano recommends you learn everything you can and go on organized trips with your local hiking clubs.
“Learn about being prepared and about hiking trail etiquette. Make friends and come up to speed on getting the appropriate gear, how to plan your adventures, and most important know how to stay safe and operate within your limits. As you get more experienced and conditioned, go for longer and more challenging hikes.”
His three favorite hikes in the whole state of Washington are the High Divide in Olympic National Park, Sourdough Mountain in North Cascades National Park, and Image Lake in the Glacier Peak Wilderness.
In eastern Washington, his favorites include Wapaloosie Mountain in the Kettle River Range, the Little Snowy Top Loop in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness, and Oregon Butte in the Blue Mountains.
The Intermountain Alpine Club (IMAC) has an organized hike planned up Oregon Butte, a 5.9-mile round trip hike in the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, for June 23. For more information, visit imacnw.org/calendar.html.
Romano is working on a new Urban Trails series and the ever-present task of updating his numerous Backpacking and Day Hiking North Cascades books (all with Mountaineers Books).
Urban Trails Seattle is scheduled to be released in August 2018, followed by Urban Trails Everett around Christmas. For more information visit www.craigromano.com.
When asked, “Where do you want to be in five years?”, his response was “On the trail, of course!”
Paul Krupin is an avid local outdoor enthusiast and a member of the Intermountain Alpine Club (IMAC). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.