Yesterday marked the US release* of my second book with Gestalten Publications, “The Hidden Tracks: Wanderlust off the Beaten Path.” In a nutshell, it’s a 272 page coffee table book that features 29 terrific hikes from around the world. Some of the treks included are America’s Hayduke Trail, New Zealand’s Dusky Track, the Pyrenean Haute Route along the French and Spanish border, and a crossing of Bolivia’s otherworldly Salar de Uyuni.
The Hidden Tracks is the sequel to last year’s, “Wanderlust: Hiking on Legendary Trails” (now on it’s fifth printing, and available in English, German, French and as of next year, Japanese). As with its predecessor, The Hidden Tracks takes readers on a visual journey through some of the world’s most unique and spectacular landscapes. The diverse selection of routes and trails vary widely not only in terms of length and difficulty, but also in regards to environment and character. The featured hikes take place on six continents and 25 different countries, and include family-friendly day excursions, three and four day trips for intermediate backpackers, and challenging multi-week (and month) wilderness treks for more experienced ramblers:
“Hiking amongst California’s Redwoods can be hazardous to your health. Perhaps in no other part of North America, do hikers find themselves stubbing their toes and straining their necks as much as they do while meandering through these ancient coastal forests. The reason, of course, is the trees themselves. Measuring over 100m (328 ft) in height, the Redwoods are not only the world’s tallest trees, but also the biggest living thing on the planet. Hikers will inevitably spend as much time gazing up in awe, as they will looking at the trail in front of them.” (Excerpt from the James Irvine/Miner’s Ridge Loop article, “Walking among the World’s Tallest Trees”.
What differentiates this book to the original, is that the focus of The Hidden Tracks is primarily on trails and routes that are less well known. Some of the hikes – such as those in Mongolia, Bolivia and Siberia – are shorter routes I pioneered myself, while others such as Tasmania’s Mount Anne Circuit and Kluane National Park’s Slim’s River West, may be known in their respective regions, but to a large extent remain off the radar in other parts of the hiking world:
“The Salar de Uyuni is the earth’s largest salt flat. Situated in the southwest corner of Bolivia’s Altiplano, it measures a staggering 12,106 sq km (4,674 sq mi); more than 20 times bigger than America’s largest salt flat, the infamous Death Valley. It is an otherworldly sight to behold, a glistening ocean of white crystals stretching out as far as the eyes can see to the bluest of blue horizons.” (Excerpt from “Crossing the World’s Largest Salt Flat”).
From the beginning, The Hidden Tracks was very much a a collaborative effort. Yours truly provided a handful of the photos and all of the written content, but it is the team at Gestalten that are responsible for most of the amazing images that truly bring the trails to life. These guys are second to none when it comes to visual storytelling, and over the past two decades have produced more than 600 works on a wide range of subjects, including art, architecture, food, design, typography, travel…………and now two books about hiking!! A special thanks to Anja Kouznetsova (editor), Cyra Pfennings (editorial management) and Rachel Sampson (text editor), with whom I worked closely on the project from day one, and who kindly put up with all of my eccentricities.
So far I’ve shared with you what The Hidden Tracks is, however, I think it’s also worth mentioning what it is not. It is not a detailed planning guide that hikers will take with them out on the trail. The book does not contain permit or GPS information, nor does it include in-depth trekking notes or topographic map and guidebook recommendations. It is meant to inspire, rather than enable. An ode to the beauty and wonder of experiencing the natural world on foot:
“On a journey as long as the Continental Divide Trail, hikers will have no choice but to adapt to Mother Nature’s clock. For multiple months, they will experience life at four to five kilometers (2.5 to 3.1 mi) per hour. It is a simple existence in which the focus is on necessities, rather than superfluous luxuries. Food in your belly, clothes on your back, shelter over your head. In a nutshell, this is one of the biggest gifts that can be derived from completing a thru-hike, because the realizations that come with it are universally applicable. Irrespective of whether you are on-trail or off, a diligent commitment to simplicity is one of the surest ways to a happy and healthy life.” (Excerpt from the CDT article: “Tracing the Backbone of America”).
Q&A – The Hidden Tracks
In regards to the title, how did you decide which trails and routes were “hidden”?
What qualifies a route or trail as being “hidden” is somewhat subjective; to a certain degree it depends on where you are from and the breadth of your hiking experience. For example, in recent years the Pyrenean Haute Route has become more well known in Europe, but for the most part continues to fly under the radar for the rest of the backpacking world. The same goes for the Continental Divide Trail outside of the US. In making the final selections for “The Hidden Tracks”, there was some back-and-forthing between myself and the publishers, but in the end I’d like to think that the majority of our featured trails will represent something new or “off the beaten path” to most of the folks that will purchase the book.
Have you personally done all of the hikes in “The Hidden Tracks”?
No. Of the 29 hikes featured in The Hidden Tracks, I have completed 22 of them along with sections of another two. As was the case with the first book (for which I had completed or done sections of 26 out of the 29 trails I wrote about), the editing staff at Gestalten had a handful of trails that they wanted to feature that I hadn’t personally hiked. For those particular walks, I contacted friends and acquaintances that had hiked them in recent years for first-hand accounts, as well as doing additional background research myself.
What are some of the family-friendly trails in the book?
The Causeway Coast Way in Northern Ireland, the Lieserpfad in Germany, the watery crossing of Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, the James Irvine and Miner’s Ridge loop in the Redwood forests of California, and the dramatic Tiger Leaping Gorge in China.
What about the most challenging hikes?
In no particular order, the Hayduke Trail, the Snowman Trek, Sarek National Park, the Dusky Track, and the Continental Divide Trail.
Will there be a third book in the “Wanderlust” series?
I hope so! There are so many incredible routes and trails around the world, and I feel like we have just scratched the surface with the first two books.
Final thoughts on “The Hidden Tracks”?
One of the things I’ve always liked most about hiking is its democratic nature; almost everyone can participate. And with that in mind, I’ve tried my best to include a wide variety of trails in the book that will pique the interest of almost everyone, from grizzled vets to wide-eyed newbies to wanderlusters contemplating their maiden backpacking excursions. The end-game ultimately being the same; showcase this phenomenal planet of ours, and inspire as many folks as possible to get out and explore its wonders on foot.
*Note: “The Hidden Tracks” was released in Europe on September 20 of this year. Since that time it has been featured in various publications including The Telegraph, Gentleman’s Journal and TGO Magazine. Additionally, yours truly has made a couple of podcast appearances on ABC National radio and World Nomads.