IT’S HARD TO SAY exactly how many loud conversations have started in Puget Sound bars with the words, “I used to have this long-running argument with Harvey Manning …” But I can vouch for at least one I am willing to publicly disclose.
This happened many years ago, when I was the outdoors scribe at The Seattle Times and Harvey was … Harvey, the man, the guidebook legend, the lug-soled hiking trooper who opened up the backyard wilderness to multiple generations through a series of painstakingly researched hiking guides for The Mountaineers.
The occasionally cantankerous Manning, whom we lost in 2006, had something of an attitude about next-gen folks who came along behind him, surveying the rich depth of his work — then picking out the best of the places he’d exposed for further exploration and expounding in new guides aimed at a … how do we say this, less-Spartan modern audience.
I was one of those people: one of many who surmised (I would argue, correctly) that subsequent generations would possess neither the patience, nor moral obligation, to do what Harvey and his friends had dutifully done: Pick a drainage basin, hike every single inch of trail in it, and catalog it in a guide filled with 100 hikes, at least 50 of which ultimately would feel redundant for the area.
Not to cast aspersions on Manning, whose work I have long admired. Hell, I felt lucky to even speak to him. But once his first-cut job was done, further triage was necessary for upcoming, busy generations of outdoor lovers that followed.
I think Harvey understood this. Which didn’t mean he had to like it.
“You guys,” he told me straight up one time, sort of laughing, sort of not, “are the cream-skimmers.”
Well, OK. Guilty as charged. We had a laugh over that — and over the “Rednecks For Wilderness” bumper sticker he had recently mailed me. And we agreed to disagree over what people wanted in a good trail guide.
This all came back to me in recent days, as I sat to compile this week’s cover story — specific places that a well-versed Washington state outdoor lover might have on a “bucket list.” The need seemed more relevant, given circumstances, whether that means the threat of getting ill or just being unable to travel.
A year ago here in the Sunday mag, we kicked off the summer outdoor rec season with a piece that focused more on mind-tripping than actually moving about; pondering, remembering, appreciating and planning anew visits to the region’s outdoor wonders if and when times changed.
Fortunately, they have, at least for now. With summer looming and kids “out” of school, regional travel is on the minds of many, and the sense of fragility many of us carry around after (or during, pick your poison) the pandemic likely emphasizes the urgency of making every day count.
Given that, I decided to break a longtime loose guideline about naming specific spots people would be remiss in not visiting at some point along their own trail of life.
I hope the list is a useful introduction to new folks, and perhaps a reminder to the old-schoolers.
It probably qualifies as cream-skimming, squared, and I suspect it’d make Manning, if he were still around, grimace. But I like to think he’d still return my calls.