Released in spring of this year by K. Daniels Publishing, 50 Classic Day Hikes of the Eastern Sierra offers the perfect introduction to a variety of trails in the geographically diverse Sierra, White, and Inyo mountains. The 50 hikes range from the desolate, haunting mines of Cerro Gordo to the breathtaking splendor of Thousand Island Lake. 50 Classic Day Hikes represents a two year labor of love for author and former Sheet contributor Devon Fredericksen, with co-author and boyfriend Reed Harvey. The two aimed to create a guidebook unique to an exceptional area. Correspondingly, the book boasts beautiful color photographs, informative sidebars on geography, human and natural history, as well as detailed maps, terrain and trail information.
The Sheet spoke long-distance with the authors, who now make their home in Portland, about the challenges and rewards of creating a new hiking guidebook that is a necessary addition to the library of any Eastside hiking enthusiast.
Sheet: So what inspired you to tackle the project of writing a hiking guidebook?
Devon Fredericksen: I guess the long answer is that we’re both outdoorsy; my dad took me on my first backpacking trip when I was three. I started at an early age, and it’s just always been something that I love doing. Same with Reed; he grew up playing in the woods and exploring. So we both had a love for exploring, and then Kevin Daniels, the publisher, approached us one day and said, ‘Hey, I think there’s a niche market for hiking guides for this area. Do you guys want to write one?’
We talked about it, and we sat down with him, and we wrote a book proposal, and one thing led to another. Mostly it was just good timing, and the fact that we had flexible enough schedules to do it. Also, who doesn’t dream of having a project where your job is to go hiking? That right there was basically the biggest incentive for us, just to be doing a project that revolved around something we loved. The work was secondary. Granted, it was a lot of work, but it was worth it. And we were never doing it for the money. I mean, let’s be serious.
Sheet: Was it a challenging project?
Reed Harvey: It ended up being pretty challenging. We basically hiked all of the trails that same summer that we started on it. Then that winter we sat down with everything we’d done and started trying to figure out how to turn it into a book. I took on the mapping part of it, learning how to use a GIS mapping software program, and learned how to put our tracks on there and make sure they fit the maps properly, and I put in the elevation profiles. A big part of the project was not hiking, actually, just learning how to use that software and then going through and trying to make it perfect.
Sheet: Just looking through and seeing all of the maps, as well as the sidebars, with the geologic, natural and human history, it seems like it was probably a lot of work to put together.
DF: It was, thanks for noticing. Because we wanted to be able to guide people from point A to point B, but we also wanted them to learn something from it, if that was possible. There’s just so much history in the Owens Valley and the Eastern Sierra, about the original tribes, and the miners, and all sorts of crazy characters and geology, and amazing flora and fauna.
RH: There’s been a lot of good writing already done on the Sierra, so finding those cool tidbits for the sidebars was fun. We just got to read some great material and learn more about the area.
Sheet: What was your favorite part of the project?
RH: Definitely doing the hikes was one of the best parts. It got me out into some areas of the Sierra that I hadn’t seen before, which was cool, and forced me to explore more in the Whites and the Inyos.
DF: Everyone, any local you talk to, has their favorite hikes, and so it was just fun to ask anybody that we knew, ‘What’s your favorite hike? Would you want to take us there?’ We would pour through other guidebooks to get ideas for what we wanted to include in our own, but the hikes were mostly generated from our friends and people that we’d meet. Sometimes people would lead us on wild goose chases and they’d say, ‘There’s this really great trail up in the White Mountains,’ and we’d spend a day with them, but ultimately it wouldn’t actually be a trail.
But it was always fun to explore, and there’s lots of hikes. We went on a lot that ultimately didn’t end up being included in the book because, for various reasons, either they were difficult to find, or there wasn’t an actual trail, or it was encroaching on some sensitive historical artifacts that we didn’t want people to find and then maybe damage or destroy.
Sheet: Something unique to your guide is that emphasis on the White and Inyo mountains, which few hikers in this area have really explored.
RH: There’s really no information on those areas. That’s partly because of the way it was developed, with all of these different mining camps over the years; their roads crisscrossing and then falling into disrepair. It’s kind of a patchwork of trails and roads. Some of them are maintained, but a lot of them are fading away.
DF: We wanted to give people options, because before we started this, those options didn’t exist. So the days that we spent going up into the Whites and the Inyos usually were the days where we had wild goose chases, where our car would break down and we’d be stranded for a few hours while we tried to get our car out of the dirt road that no one knew about and couldn’t warn us about. So people have acknowledged that they’re excited that we forged the way for other people to go enjoy some trails up in that area, because up until now they haven’t really been listed anywhere.
Sheet: Were there any hikes that you wish you could have included in the book that you weren’t able to?
RH: Yeah, definitely. There’s one hike that we really wanted to find a way to include; it’s a two mile hike up this canyon to a huge waterfall in the Whites. It freezes in the winter, and it’s really beautiful, cascading down through the granite. But there’s no way to approach it without crossing private property, even though the hike itself is on public lands. So we couldn’t really put that in there. It’s well worth checking out, and I think you can ask a few of the owners there for permission to cross their land. But you can’t have tons of people doing it.
Sheet: Another thing unique to your guidebook is the sheer number of beautiful color photos.
DF: Yeah, that’s one of the things that we really wanted, and it makes the book more expensive, because printing in color is inevitably more expensive, but ultimately we wanted to make the book enticing for people just thumbing through it to see what’s out there.
Sheet: So what brought you to the Eastside in the first place?
RH: Rock climbing, for sure. I had never even visited, and I basically packed all of my belongings up in my Jeep and drove down to Bishop. I kind of lived out of my car for about six months.
DF: I followed Reed down once I finished school, and then we just loved it. We were only expecting to be there for six months to a year, and then I remember someone who worked for the Sheet actually said, ‘You should just try sticking it out for a year, to see how you like it.’ One thing led to another, and Bishop is a hard place to leave. We found ourselves falling in love with it more and more every day.
Sheet: How was it working with your boyfriend, or girlfriend, respectively?
DF: [Deadpan] We’re now broken up.
RH: [Laughs] Well, we’re in a loveless relationship. All the mystery is gone. I know how she writes.
DF: No, I’m kidding. It was great. We talked about that beforehand, and we’d already been together for just about four years when we started the project, so we were pretty comfortable with each other at that point, and it didn’t really feel risky doing this project together.
It was fun. Reed’s a lot faster of a hiker than I am, so in the beginning I had to tell him, ‘I know that you’re a faster hiker, but you have to slow down because we need to take pictures, and we need to be taking notes together.’ So it was actually kind of nice, because for once in our relationship, he had to hike the same pace as me.
Devon and Reed will be signing copies of 50 Classic Day Hikes of the Eastern Sierra on Friday, July 5 at Spellbinder in Bishop, beginning with a slideshow at 5:30 p.m. In Mammoth, the duo will sign books at the Booky Joint on Saturday, July 6 from 1-3 p.m. Mimi’s Cookies will provide their famous cookies.
(Photo: Stephen Matera)