May 9, 2011

A Trail Guide Celebration

As hiking guides, we are expected to know the trails like the backs of our hands.  But we were once newcomers here and had to find our way around for the first time, just like most visitors to the Rockies.  And for that, we have hiking guidebooks to thank.

Joel with Brian and Bart
We're not the only ones to give thanks.  A week ago, I (Joel) joined at least 100 people who attended the opening of a new exhibit at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies that celebrates hiking guidebooks.  If you own any of the main hiking books for this neck of the woods, you might recognize the names of the authors who were in attendance – Graeme Pole, Don Beers, Kathy & Craig Copeland.  Also present were the duo who started it all 40 years ago: Brian Patton & Bart Robinson.  The first edition of their  “Canadian Rockies Trail Guide,” hit the shelves in 1971 (at $3.95 a copy!), and eight editions later, it has sold almost a quarter of a million copies.  For a regional non-fiction title in Canada, this is astounding – it's like “The Da Vince Code” of the Canadian Rockies.

Eight editions on display
Having known Brian since my first year in Banff, and Bart for a dozen years, I couldn't miss going to hear the stories of how they got inspired, how they met, how they hiked hundreds of trails, and how a new publishing house was created just to get their book to press.

On display at the Museum until the end of May is a collection of the best hiking guides of the Rockies (including the rare early editions), plus Brian & Bart's famous measuring wheel (which looks like a bicycle wheel crossed with a divining rod).  This wheel has rolled over several thousand miles, giving all of us grateful hikers the very first accurate distances for all the trails in the parks.

Happy Birthday to “The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide.”