Harvey Manning was a man of incongruities. He was the Northwest's most prolific and influential author of books on hiking. Yet he had the...

Share story

Harvey Manning was a man of incongruities.

He was the Northwest’s most prolific and influential author of books on hiking. Yet he had the physique of Santa Claus.

He was a dedicated and caring conservationist who may have done more than any other single person to preserve wilderness in the Cascades. Yet he could verbally savage anyone who impeded his causes, from developers to politicians and newspaper editors.

And Mr. Manning, who died Sunday, Nov. 12, at age 81, forged a 50-year publishing partnership with photographer Ira Spring. Yet he abruptly and famously severed the friendship in a feud over a simple book-title change.

“He was loud and he was obnoxious,” said daughter Claudia Manning of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. “You either loved him or you couldn’t stand him.”

And there were plenty on both sides.

“He was the spokesman for the environmental movement and its driving force,” said Jim Whittaker, of Port Townsend, the legendary Northwest mountaineer who was the first American to summit Mount Everest. Mr. Manning, Whittaker said, worked to protect the planet with an outsized passion matched only by his girth.

Mr. Manning, of Bellevue, who had recently undergone treatment for colon cancer, was taken to Group Health Eastside Hospital in Redmond Friday night after complaining of pain. His intestines later failed and his family removed him from life support.

The loss of Mr. Manning’s singular brand of advocacy comes at a time when people are increasingly educated about the cost of environmental harm yet keep losing daily touch with nature, his friends lamented.

The North Cascades National Park, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area and Cougar Mountain Regional Park all owe their existence to him, they said.

The Issaquah Alps were nameless foothills south of Interstate 90 before Mr. Manning christened them, in 1976. And he was one of the original advocates of the Mountains-to-Sound Greenway, now a publicly owned 100-mile corridor of woods along I-90.

In fact, anyone who has hiked or simply soaked in the swath of nature between Lake Washington and Snoqualmie Summit benefited from Mr. Manning’s combative but effective style, said Doug Simpson, president of Issaquah Alps Trails Club.

Harvey Manning was born July 16, 1925, in Ballard. His father, also named Harvey Manning, made his living selling equipment to lumber mills. That did not prevent Mr. Manning from growing up to become one of logging and mining companies’ most formidable foes.

As he grew up and graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in English literature, Mr. Manning developed an early love of the outdoors. He and his wife, Betty, were hikers, climbers and wearers of Army surplus clothing long before Eddie Bauer and Gore-Tex.

Mr. Manning worked about 10 years, through the 1960s, for the UW, performing various communications duties, including editing the alumni magazine. But he mostly supported his family through his writing.

And he wrote a lot, though it was niche work.

For decades, Mr. Manning collaborated with Spring on two dozen volumes of the “Footsore” and “100 Hikes” series, including “100 Classic Hikes in Washington” and “Hiking the Great Northwest.” The books have become bibles for two generations of outdoor lovers.

All in all, the books “didn’t make much money,” said his eldest daughter, Penelope. “It was more of a cause.”

But finally, in 2003, Mr. Manning broke off his ties with the publishing company he had founded, Mountaineers Books in Seattle, and quit writing with Spring. A title change to the duo’s final book, “Best Winter Walks & Hikes: Puget Sound,” upset Mr. Manning, who accused his partner of having become “a trail promoter, not an environmentalist.” Spring died later that year.

Always a reclusive writer, Mr. Manning didn’t tell his family he had been working on an autobiography. Penelope Manning said the family hopes to complete it and publish it.

In addition to his wife and daughters Penelope and Claudia, survivors include a third daughter, Rebecca Oliver of Portland; a son, Harvey Paul Manning of Peterborough, Ontario; Barbara Parr, whom Claudia married in Canada; and two grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are pending. Donations may be sent to the North Cascades Conservation Council, P.O. Box 95980, Seattle, WA 98145.

Kyung Song: 206-464-2423 or ksong@seattletimes.com