The authors of a new Kansas trails guidebook will be in Hays to speak about the book and their experiences while researching it.
“Kansas Trail Guide: The Best Hiking, Biking, and Riding in the Sunflower State,” by Kristin and Jonathan Conard, was published in May 2015. The siblings will speak at 1 p.m. Saturday at Hays Public Library. Audience members will have the opportunity to ask questions of the authors.
With the book, Kristin said, they hope to challenge some stereotypes that people — even Kansans — have of the state.
“We were impressed by the history and variety of landscape, even from growing up here, and the number of trails that are out there,” she said.
Western Kansas, in particular, held surprises for the pair, who grew up in the Wichita and Salina areas.
“Even we had the idea that it’s kind of flat farmland,” Kristin said.
Jonathan hiked Cedar Bluff State Park for his research and found its views, with the chalk bluffs overlooking the lake, remarkable.
“That was one that he was really impressed with, one of the top trails in the western portion of the state,” Kristin said.
The book was Jonathan’s idea, Kristin said, when he could not find a recent, comprehensive guide book for hiking trails in the state. They produced sample content from approximately five trails and submitted their proposal to the University of Kansas Press, who gave them approximately 15 months to complete the project.
Then, “we divided and conquered,” Kristin said.
For Kristin, logistics were the most difficult part of the research for the book. A freelance writer and teacher, she lives part of the year in California. She had to complete her part of the trail research in eight weeks in one summer, conducting two or three hikes a day.
Jonathan lives in Sterling, where he teaches biology and ecology at Sterling College.
Researching each trail included not only walking and photographing the trail, but using a GPS device to get precise coordinates for mapping.
“Each portion had its challenges,” Kristin said. “Being outside and hiking, that was a lot of fun, but you also had to make sure your GPS was on and paying attention to what was around you.”
Then came the supplemental research. The book includes descriptions of the trails, the history of the area, nearby camping facilities, and if the trails allow biking, horseback riding or pets.
Kristin said she’s certain they included every trail in Kansas — at least what existed at the time.
“The trail building is going on,” she said, citing continued development of the rails to trails program. “There’s a lot in state parks, but there’s a lot that people are doing on their own in different places. We tried to look for all of them, but they’re still cropping up, which is pretty neat.”
If the public and publisher is interested, there could be an updated edition of the book in the future, she said.
“It’s really just a celebration of Kansas, to what we found,” Kristen said. “We’re trying to be as helpful and positive a resource as we can for the people around the state.”
Copies of the book will be for sale at Saturday’s event.