The book’s title almost says it all. “100 Classic Hikes in New England,” published in June by The Mountaineers Books, belongs in every hiker’s library. Written by Hallowell resident Jeffrey Romano, it’s much more than a guidebook. It’s a treat for the eyes as well as the feet. The guide is loaded with more than 100 full-color photographs of views, wildlife and plant life. But this guide is not just a pretty book. The details you expect to find; trail difficulty, accurate descriptions, full-color maps and road approaches, are all in there, too.
Starting with hikes in Rhode Island and ending in Maine, the author hiked every one of the trails in the year and a half before writing the book. “The research took me 15 months and included hiking 750 miles of trails,” he said. “During one stretch from Aug. 1 to Oct. 31, I managed to squeeze in more than 50 of the hikes. About a dozen times, to maximize my days off from my day job and minimize travel expenses, I did two hikes in one day, a five miler in the morning, then a six-mile hike in the afternoon.”
Romano chose the hikes to include in the book based on how they represented the natural features of each state. As he explained in the introduction, “Arriving at the 100 classic hikes in New England was a challenge, because there are so many from which to choose,” he wrote. There are hikes in the guide from Connecticut to the northern Maine, and every place in between.
He ended up deciding on which hikes are in the book as a way to showcase each state’s diverse landscapes and what trails to take to reach them. The book contains hikes for every level of ability. Most of them are on conserved lands and include such easy treks as a modest day hike around Walden Pond in Massachusetts. Others are more difficult, such as the multiday backpacking trip along the Grafton Loop Trail in Maine. In every hike the format includes one other than the main trail that’s featured, to provide options for even more hikes.
The book is laid out by state and regions. For example, the coastal hikes in Maine are separated from inland hikes. A handy index in the front of the book organizes the hikes by length, from half-day hikes to extended backpacking trips. Also in the index you’ll find trail difficulty, which season is best to hike in, and points of interest along the trail. A short section in the front of the book covers topics such as safety and trail etiquette.
Romano is eminently qualified to have written such a thorough guide. He has hiked all of the hundred highest mountains in New England and is also the author of “Best Loop Hikes: New Hampshire’s White Mountains to the Maine Coast,” also published by The Mountaineers Books. In his day job he coordinates public policy for Maine Coast Heritage Trust, a statewide land trust.
He writes clear trail descriptions like this one about the approach hike up Mount Abraham in Maine, “The path gains little elevation, but is not flat as it traverses a number of small streams and depressions along the way.” Later on the hike, he describes the steep section, “Gaining more than 1,800 feet, the final section wastes little time scaling the steep mountain terrain.”
Romano sprinkles the trail descriptions with background information not found in other guides. From the introduction to the Mount Abraham hike, he writes, “The boulder-draped summit of Mount Abraham is a distinctive feature of Maine’s western mountains and one of the most scenic spots in New England. Located near the main mountain ridge traversed by the Appalachian Trail, Mount Abraham provides tremendous views of Saddleback, Sugarloaf, and Bigelow Mountains.”
The production of the guide is so well done you might be tempted to leave it at home for fear of mucking it up with trail grime. That would be a mistake. Just put it in your pack the next time you head out, or photocopy your intended hike to keep the book from ending up in tatters. In either scenario, this guide will keep you on the trail discovering the best hiking that New England has to offer. Who knew that Rhode Island has trails?
The guide retails for $21.95 and is available in many area retailers, or order from The Mountaineers Books, on its website at www.mountaineersbooks.org or call 800-553-4453.
Reading this guidebook over the winter could start you on a quest to hike all the trails featured in the guide. It also makes a great gift for the hiker on your holiday shopping list, but you probably should buy two, and keep one for yourself. When you travel to trails in New England, it’s the only one you’ll need.