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  1. #1
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    Default How to start writing a guide book

    What is the elementary way to start writing a short guidebook? What tools are the best to use for mileage & elevation? Thanks
    Take Time to Watch the Trees Dance with The Wind.....Then Join In

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    I assume you mean a guidebook for the AT? for the average hiker or aspiring thru?
    There are already some great resources readily available...not sure why you're asking...unless this is intended to cover some other trail or reach some other type of hiker.
    For a widely used example, you could look at www.theatguide.com

  3. #3

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    I would never consider writing a guidebook to a trail or an area until you spend at least 10 years living out and knowing not only it's history but it's secret off-trail water sources and hidden campsites---and where to go in a high windstorm or where to go off the trail to seek a low campsite in case of lightning---and also which campsites fill up with water (lake effect) in terrible rainstorms etc. This knowledge takes years to acquire.

  4. #4

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    Any decent word processor.

    Unless someone has done it for you, getting mileage and elevation data is best gathered with a good GPS you carry as you hike the trail and note all the POI. Then it's just a matter of figuring out how to export the data from the GPS.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  5. #5

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    Measuring wheel is the only way to get 100% accurate mileage, every time I have used a GPS it will be several tenths of a mile different the second time around, which is fine for hiking, but I think it should be accurate for a book.
    There's several elevation apps, but again there not 100%. Study forest service maps, old and new of the area.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    I would never consider writing a guidebook to a trail or an area until you spend at least 10 years living out and knowing not only it's history but it's secret off-trail water sources and hidden campsites---and where to go in a high windstorm or where to go off the trail to seek a low campsite in case of lightning---and also which campsites fill up with water (lake effect) in terrible rainstorms etc. This knowledge takes years to acquire.
    So when's your trail guide coming out tipi ? I'd purchase one.

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    Agree with the measuring wheel.....

    if one wants to read about how the trails in the GSMNP were measured (and my phone is not
    letting me clip and paste link)——google Robert Lochbaum and smokies and he tells his
    method of measuring trails to get accurate....

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    Agree with the measuring wheel.....

    if one wants to read about how the trails in the GSMNP were measured (and my phone is not
    letting me clip and paste link)——google Robert Lochbaum and smokies and he tells his
    method of measuring trails to get accurate....
    http://www.smhclub.org/Stories/Lochbaum.htm

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by JNI64 View Post
    So when's your trail guide coming out tipi ? I'd purchase one.
    You'll just have to read thru my 100,000 pages of trail journals.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    You'll just have to read thru my 100,000 pages of trail journals.
    Holy crap a 100,000 page trail guide, I better get started reading and studying! Be careful what ya wish for eh. But seriously you probably could write a book . With your years living in a tipi and places you've been and hiked and the long trips your still pulling. Have you ever thought about that? Writing a book?

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by wornoutboots View Post
    What is the elementary way to start writing a short guidebook? What tools are the best to use for mileage & elevation? Thanks
    1. Read through a few guide books and select the features you find in them that you like and what improvements you think would be good and use them as guidelines for yours.

    2. Showing mileage and elevation data depends on what level of accuracy you want, knowing there is little chance of getting to-the-foot accuracy. One can find information about trail mileage and elevation from a number of sources including USGS Topographic maps, other guide books, park websites, or hiker related forums/websites that can contain that information on specific trails. For example, the AT generates several guidebooks both paper and digita formatsl that can be used to compare data with your GPS readings to determine how close the data is with yours. This can be very helpful to determine if there is a predictable discrepancy between your GPS and any published mileages you find. If you find a predictable difference, say 1/10th of a mile for each mile walked, you can use that data to make adjustments in anything you publish. Use terms like "approximate mileage" when discussing this data.

    Without any comparative mileage/elevation data or predictable differences between published data, I presume like most authors you will be hiking the trail several times and collecting mileage and elevation data with your own equipment (consumer grade or professional) so you can develop some averages. I have seen others doing this type of repeated data gathering with two people, each having similar but different brands of equipment and comparing the results.

    Not to belabor the point, but authors I have met hike the trails they write about several times before they write the first draft, then walk it to fact-check the draft, repeating that process with each draft developed. Tipi had the right logic, though the time scale may not be necessary, but if you are writing a trail guide, there's a lot more to the trail than just how long it is, how steep it is, and what you can expect to find for views. There are stories for a lot of things you pass on any trail, a huge smoke stained glacial erratic, old abandoned machinery, rubble wall foundations deep in the forest, where connecting trails go, and local history that can be researched. Those are the type of guide books that generate interest as opposed to simple data and a photo or two.

    Good luck!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    I would never consider writing a guidebook to a trail or an area until you spend at least 10 years living out and knowing not only it's history but it's secret off-trail water sources and hidden campsites---and where to go in a high windstorm or where to go off the trail to seek a low campsite in case of lightning---and also which campsites fill up with water (lake effect) in terrible rainstorms etc. This knowledge takes years to acquire.
    This is that exact type of area, a place I have been hiking since the 90"s and have only seen a handful of hikers & most trips none. It's not the AT or any other long trail. I want to do a simple book like the size of say Eric the Blacks JMT "pocket atlas" but for short overnight/weekend loops. Something that someone can keep in their car & it will give an accurate details of trails, campsites, water, elev, waterfalls, scenic sites, etc., for anyone wants to stretch their legs for a day orr longer. Thanks
    Take Time to Watch the Trees Dance with The Wind.....Then Join In

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by wornoutboots View Post
    What is the elementary way to start writing a short guidebook? What tools are the best to use for mileage & elevation? Thanks
    To compile a decent guidebook you need to have a working knowledge of many disciplines:

    1. Hiking, of course,

    2. an accurate & up-to-date GPS track of the trail(s) to be included in the guide book, which means you need

    3. a working knowledge of GPS coordinates and how they are formatted, map-reading & map-making (wilderness navigation & cartography),

    4. a complete & accurate listing of all water sources, trail shelters, shuttle providers, lodging accommodations, (hostels, motels, B&Bs, etc.), adjacent to the trail(s) in the guide book, along with accurate & informative maps for every trail town along the way,

    5. a working knowledge of InDesign, or Scribus, or any other publication composition program that is widely accepted by the printing company that will print & bind the finished guide book,

    6. the finances needed to purchases the needed software & print shop services,

    7. people who are willing & able to contribute the needed data for the guide book,

    8. a good format for the completed work that will make sense to the user and is informative to the guide book user,

    9. a good proof-reader/editor/copy writer who will unmercifully peruse every page, line, word, map, and map entry looking for stuff you overlooked, or otherwise screwed up. (You should NEVER proof read your own work, and you should be happy if the person reviewing your work is upsetting you...it means he, or she, is doing their job properly!)

    10. a bottle of Tylenol, or Motrin, or whatever, you will need it!

    -----

    My intention is not to discourage you from from publishing your own guide book.

    It is a big project that will consume a lot of time, energy & resources, but along the way you will acquire a lot of useful, salable, desk-top publishing skills that may help you to finance your next big hike.

    You are off to a good start by keeping good records about the trails you use. Maybe you could publish a guide to a local area's trails to get started and develop necessary skills for a bigger project.

    I developed a deep respect for anyone who tackles the complexities of putting together a guide book while working as a contributor, along with several others, to attroll's WhiteBlaze Pages Guide Book:

    https://www.whiteblazepages.com/store/

    Check it out and you will get an idea of the complexity of a guide book project. (Also- Buy a copy!)
    Last edited by atraildreamer; 01-22-2020 at 15:27.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by wornoutboots View Post
    This is that exact type of area, a place I have been hiking since the 90"s and have only seen a handful of hikers & most trips none. It's not the AT or any other long trail. I want to do a simple book like the size of say Eric the Blacks JMT "pocket atlas" but for short overnight/weekend loops. Something that someone can keep in their car & it will give an accurate details of trails, campsites, water, elev, waterfalls, scenic sites, etc., for anyone wants to stretch their legs for a day orr longer. Thanks
    FWIW, I wrote the following guide book, having lived and hiked in the Denver area for about 30 years at the time:

    https://www.amazon.com/Best-Denver-H...9564889&sr=8-1

    Yeah it was a lot of work, took me 8 months IIRC but I "employed" (got volunteers!) to hike a lot of the 30 trails in the book for me, and gave them all a detailed list of things to take notes about, and even had them write a draft for that particular hike in the book, which I later edited generally a bunch to make all the write ups consistent.

    I hiked about 20 of the 30 trails myself.

    I made sure each trail had a very accurate and detailed GPS track, and if not, I hiked it myself again.

    I made sure the directions to each and every trailhead was dead-nuts accurate.

    I rated each hike on a 1-5 scale: easy, easy-moderate, moderate, moderate-difficult, difficult scale.

    I'd be glad to email you a section or two of the book (there are 30 total) so you can get an idea of how the book is laid out, so you don't have to spring for the $15 to buy it.

    IF you buy it, guess what? I get a whole 7 cents! But also guess what, over 12 years, I've made over $1000 on it, meaning something like 14,000 copies sold.

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    Not about hiking, but rock climbing.
    Back in the late 80ties we were a small group of ambitious rock climbers and after having put years of on and off work and lots of money for bolting etc., into our local training area (what we call "Climbing Garden"), we decided we should write a guidebook.
    We were a team of 3 people: One doing the organisation for ads, proof reading, preprocessing and printing, one doing the text and collecting info, and me doing the drawings and collecting info.
    What shall I say: It was way more work to get this done properly, just the interviews with other (older) rock climbers took months to be done, and we met every other evening for more months to get the text&drawings right.
    We've exhasutively climbed every single route in the area aside of the very few that were above our level, and some that we were just told about by others, which made it 5-6 out of a hundred.
    Obviousely we by far underestimated the amount and diversity of the work.
    It took us half a year longer to get it done, and although we had two of the best proof readers you could ask for the text still has 3 bugs, and finally we got picked at about issues in the description of the 5-6 routes we didn't climb ourself.
    We sold the 500 printed booklets quite well but that hardly covered the cost for preprocessing&printing.

    As others already stated:
    Not to discourage you, but to put a realistic view on such a project, most likely loads of work and no net win.

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