Washington state is known for its flannel-wearing, IPA-drinking, nature-loving residents, and Whidbey Island happens to be a haven for all of those activities.
Freeland resident Maribeth Crandell’s new book might not offer style tips or brewery tour information, but it does provide insight into the region’s best trails for those not looking to travel far.
“Hiking Close to Home” is available at Kingfisher Bookstore in Coupeville, Moonraker Bookstore in Langley and online at hikingclosetohome.weebly.com. Signed copies will be available at the book release party held 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21 at Coupeville Library.
“Apparently, it’s filling a niche,” Crandell said.
Bookstore owners have reported to her that people are consistently asking for local trail guides, and she wrote her book by popular demand.
The longtime Whidbey resident and avid nature walker decided to create the comprehensive trail guide after she received several requests to do so at her library talks on the subject. Crandell currently works at Island Transit and has worked as a trail guide and outdoor educator.
Each event was well attended, to the point of there being standing room only at most of them, and she received suggestions and comments after each one, Crandell said. Eventually, her evolving Powerpoint presentation became the perfect springboard for her full-fledged guide.
She enlisted the help of former Deception Pass State Park manager Jack Hartt, who also happens to be an author and photographer.
Together they created a full-color guide, complete with maps, descriptions and directions for 57 trail heads on Whidbey and Fidalgo islands. Prospective hikers can also learn which trails are wheel accessible or dog friendly as well as which ones can be reached by bus.
“Every trail has a story,” said Crandell, standing at the entrance of South Whidbey State Park.
She went on to talk about how the park’s towering old-growth trees were at risk of clear-cutting in the 1970s until a group of activists stepped in.
Crandell lives near Trillium Community Forest, which was also narrowly plucked from the jaws of development in 2010.
Although her various jobs over the years have lent her insight, Crandell said she acquired her hiking expertise simply by going outside.
“I like to walk,” she said. “And I hang out with other people who like to walk.”
The guide covers easy half-mile strolls to all-day excursions and everything in between. She said some of her favorite lesser-known routes on the island are at Hoypus Point and Bowman Bay.
The guide also includes photos of her on the trails with snow on the ground to show that many of them are still enjoyable even in inclement weather. She won’t guarantee feet will stay dry, but her only condition for a “successful hike” is if “nobody dies,” she said with a laugh.
Crandell and Hartt made 500 copies of “Hiking Close to Home” and will soon start a sequel to include newly developed trails that are in the works.
Those who want to talk to Crandell about her experiences, ask advice or provide input for her next project will have a chance at Saturday’s release party. There will also be signed copies available and refreshments.
She hopes that locals will be inspired to enjoy the unique beauty their home has to offer with its forests, lakes, wetlands, bluffs, lakes and beaches.
“There are plenty of excuses people use to stay home,” Crandell said, “but there’s a lot of great things you can see and experience if you just get yourself out the door.”