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Meet the Authors of WTA

These expert writers are all part of the vibrant community who help support WTA | by Aaron Bredl

Washington Trails Association started out as Signpost, a grassroots newsletter founded in 1966 by Louise Marshall. From its inception, Signpost was written by hikers for hikers. Soon it evolved from a small grassroots network of hikers into a statewide community of advocates dedicated to protecting trails and public lands.

Signpost is now Washington Trails magazine. Over the years, many hikers and mountaineers have shared their stories and love for trails. Many of those writers have also been—or become—authors of the guidebooks that help us explore the trails we love. From the beginning, with Louise, a guidebook author herself, WTA has claimed many authors as a key part of our community. Here are just a few of our outstanding contributors who have gone on to create publications of their own.

Photo courtesy Tami Asars.

Tami Asars

“I feel that there is a sense of calm, wonder and peace that happens when folks set foot in quiet forests, visit mountain lakes and overlook panoramic vistas. Everyone benefits emotionally and physically by this natural soul salve, and I’m happy that I can share my knowledge of these places with others,” Tami said.

Over the years, Tami has been a regular contributor to Washington Trails magazine. For a while, she wrote a column called Nature Nook, which educated readers about Washington’s flora and fauna. Of the many pieces she has written, her favorite is a short narrative entitled “Here It Is” about lost-and-found items in the backcountry.

"Everyone benefits emotionally and physically by this natural soul salve, and I’m happy that I can share my knowledge of these places with others" —Tami Asars

Tami says that the hiking community that surrounds WTA and the resources provided on wta.org have helped guide her writing.

“WTA’s trail-focused efforts are first class, and I love contributing to such a dedicated community of hikers,” she said.

Tami’s most recent book, “Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Washington,” is a hiker’s dream guide to hiking the PCT in Washington. She is currently working on her next book, “Day Hiking Mount Rainier,” a guide that features 80 hikes inside and outside Mount Rainier National Park; the book will be available in June.

For more on Tami and her books, visit tamiasars.com.

"We almost always have a historical bent to our work, because it's our goal to inspire and help people connect with a hike." Photo courtesy Nate Barnes.

Nate & Jer Barnes

Nate and Jer are the co-creators of the website Hiking With My Brother, which they started after summiting Mount Rainier and tackling many of the hikes in Harvey Manning and Ira Spring’s “55 Hikes Around Snoqualmie Pass.”
For the brothers, “Taking time to scale a ridge or trek through the woods allows us to reconnect with each other and our childhood while disconnecting from our hectic adult lives.”

Their first book, “Hiking Through History Washington,” published by Falcon Guides in 2014, is an extension of their blog. While the blog format allows them to showcase more of their photography, the book is a concise educational resource that uses the historical elements of each region to draw hikers in.

Over the years, Nate and Jer haven’t just written for their blog and books. They’ve also contributed to the Hike It section of Washington Trails magazine. They got their start with the magazine after presenting at WTA's Hike the State event.

Currently, Nate and Jer are working on two books for Mountaineers Books, both of which are scheduled to be published this year.

For more information on the brothers and their books, visit hikingwithmybrother.com.

Photo by Mitzi Sugar.

Cassandra Overby

Cassandra’s first article for Washington Trails magazine was a review of a book called “Beyond the Bear,” the firsthand account of an Alaskan man who learned to live again after being blinded in a grizzly bear attack.
“It was so fun to write about something I was interested in for a change—professionally, at the time, I was doing a lot of boring (but well-paid) corporate writing,” she said.

The experience ultimately led Cassandra to change the direction of her writing career. She gave up corporate work and joined WTA’s communication team for a time before settling into a new role as the remote copy editor of and a regular contributor to Washington Trails.

She also expanded her freelance work to include other travel and outdoors publications. Her first book, “Explore Europe on Foot: Your Complete Guide to Planning a Cultural Hiking Adventure,” will be published by Mountaineers Books in September. The Explore on Foot series also includes companion route guides, three of which will be made available in 2018.

"I really hope to create a revolution of more authentic travel, one trail at a time" —Cassandra Overby

“At the end of the day, I hope that through my writing other people discover what I know to be absolutely true, that exploring a foreign country on foot is hands down the best way to travel and the best way to hike,” Cassandra said. “I really hope to create a revolution of more authentic travel, one trail at a time.”

For more information on Cassandra and her books, visit explore-on-foot.com.

It is never too early to train a new generation of writers for WTA. Photo by Craig Romano.

Craig Romano

Craig is an award-winning author and outdoors writer who has authored or co-authored 20 books—and in his spare time somehow manages to write for WTA. He regularly writes the Trails Less Traveled column for the magazine’s Hike It section. It’s all part of what he sees as his moral obligation to give back to the community that allows him to experience the places that give him joy.

“As an author, I have always emphasized community—that is, being part of a large and active community of trails and public lands advocates! Being part of the Washington Trails community is important to me, and it is important that I give back,” he said.

Over his 20-plus years as a WTA member, Craig has contributed extensively to the organization, and not just as a writer. He’s an avid Hike-a-Thoner and helps WTA raise money for trail maintenance and other programs. He’s so active with WTA that he’s often mistaken for an employee. He thinks of himself as an ambassador.

“My intent is to get as many folks as possible connected to our public lands and to live healthy and fulfilling lives—and it is my intent to get as many folks as possible to protect, defend and fight for more public lands,” he said.

Craig is currently working on a series of urban trails books for Mountaineers Books. The research has been a lot of fun for him because he’s been able to bring along his 3-year-old son. He is also continuing to work on the second editions of “Day Hiking North Cascades,” “Day Hiking Central Cascades” and “Backpacking Washington.”

For more information on Craig and his books, visit craigromano.com.

Photo courtesy Brandon Fralic.

Brandon Fralic & Rachel Wood

Brandon and Rachel are the collaborative authors of Beers at the Bottom, a blog that highlights the best pairings of hiking trails and breweries in the Pacific Northwest.

During their blog’s early years, Brandon and Rachel often looked to WTA as a hiking resource to plan their adventures. After regularly writing content for their blog but not seeing a major increase in readership, Brandon and Rachel looked to WTA for more exposure. They reached out to WTA’s magazine editor with an offer to write and were given their first story, which was a Northwest Weekend feature on Bellingham, called “From Boots to Brews.” Since then, they have become regular contributors to the magazine.

“Washington Trails magazine was our first venture into writing for print publications. Over the years, we’ve had the opportunity to meet and network with other writers, build editor relationships and learn the ropes of print journalism,” Brandon said.

Their first book, “Beer Hiking Pacific Northwest,” is available this month. It features 50 hiking trails and 50 craft breweries across Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. For more information, visit beersatthebottom.com.

Photo by Jon Stier.

Susan Elderkin

“Some of my happiest childhood memories are of hikes in the Rocky Mountains with my parents,” Susan said, “and that early exposure really shaped an entire career of working for environmental nonprofit organizations and advocating for public lands.”

Susan’s involvement with WTA started in 1995 when she moved to Seattle. She had just finished six weeks of hiking the Colorado Trail and wanted to give back to trails. She started by volunteering on a few work parties. Eventually, she joined the WTA board of directors and then the WTA staff. In the early years of her tenure, she worked a lot on the trails database, spending months researching and writing about trails.

“I couldn’t have gotten that kind of experience anywhere else,” she said. “WTA provided me with an encyclopedia of hikes and helped me develop my voice as a guidebook author.”

Once she had children, Susan also gained a following at WTA for her tips on getting outside with kids. She finds a lot of joy in helping parents introduce their children to the outdoors. She even wrote a book about it, “Best Hikes with Kids: Western Washington,” which is being published by Mountaineers Books in April.

“My two kids, now 9 and 12, helped guide the way—and their voices were definitely in my head as I wrote the book,” she said. “I really hope that this book inspires families to hike with their kids like mine did with me,” she said.

Photo by Mitzi Sugar.

Eli Boschetto

Eli is the author of “Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon,” a Mountaineers Books guide that opens up the world of backpacking the PCT to casual hikers. His writing allows him to enjoy his favorite places and share them with future explorers. Eli says that, too often, society gives us the message that you have to be extreme or you’re not a hiker.

“I suggest the opposite,” Eli said. “I emphasize that the outdoors is for everyone, at any pace. I’m a big fan of the motto ‘Hike your own hike.’”

Shortly after moving to the Pacific Northwest, Eli became a member of WTA. He started as a regular contributor to  the magazine. His first piece was about Washington’s geology and trails that showcase geological features like moraines, lava flows and cirques. Over the years, Eli took on more responsibility and eventually became magazine editor.  

“Not only did WTA show me all the amazing places to hike in Washington, it was a real eye-opener with regard to how forests and wilderness areas are managed and funded and why it’s vital for the outdoor-loving public to take an interest and get involved,” he said.

Eli is currently working on two more Oregon guidebooks, “Urban Trails: Portland” and “Day Hiking Mount Hood,” due out this year. For more information on Eli, check out PCToregon.com.

Photo by George Saul.

Melissa Ozbek

Melissa joined WTA in 2009, shortly after moving to Washington. She initially used wta.org as a hiking resource to explore the state. Eventually, Melissa worked up the confidence to apply to be a hiking guide correspondent. She felt compelled to give back to the community that had helped her find her way.

“Organizations like WTA create a bridge for folks to access trails and hike them safely, especially folks who are new to Washington and new to hiking, like I was,” Melissa said. “It means a lot to me to write for WTA—it’s a way of saying thank you for everything I’ve learned.”

It also helped her become a professional writer.

“When I became a hiking guide correspondent with WTA, I learned to answer the question, ‘What makes this hike special?’” Melissa said. “I developed this mindset that every hike had something special to offer, and it became my mission to find out and tell its story.”

In 2017, Melissa published a book, “75 Great Hikes Seattle.” For more information on Melissa and her book, visit melissaozbek.com.

We are lucky to have so many dedicated volunteers who share their knowledge with hikers by writing for this magazine and our hiking guide. And we’re delighted when they’re able to use their skills as guidebook authors, creating books that help even more hikers. We can’t wait to see who writes the next great guidebook!

This article originally appeared in the Mar+Apr 2018 issue of Washington Trails Magazine. Support trails as a member of WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.