Health In Action: Hiking Expert Craig Romano
Our Health in Action series profiles people in the community who are living Actively Northwest. Follow along each week as we profile new people who are committed to living active, healthy lives through fitness and food.
Of all the books, blogs and websites about Northwest hiking, you won’t find any with as much detail or heart as Craig Romano’s. A transplant from New Hampshire, Romano fell in love with the natural world as a child and has made it his mission to discover new places and share them with the world. While he’s traveled far and wide in search of beautiful wilderness, Washington state has captured his heart.
When not out exploring the wilderness or writing his next book, Craig shares his adventures with the world through features in Seattle Met, Backpacker Magazine, Paddler, Adventures NW, Northwest Runner, AMC Outdoors, Northwest Travel and Outdoors NW.
Learn more about Romano in our interview below, and then head over to CraigRomano.com to check out his books, blog and recent projects.
ANW: What inspires you to get out and explore the outdoors?
Romano: I absolutely love the natural world. I find purpose, inspiration, spiritual fulfillment and the meaning of life when I am in the outdoors. Being outdoors has always been a part of my life. From coast to coast there are so many beautiful places to explore and many are quite accessible. I want to see and experience as many of these places as possible in my short life. I’d rather spend a day in the woods than in the city any day!
ANW: When did you decide to start writing about your hiking adventures? What’s your favorite aspect of your job?
Romano: I’ve been writing since I was a teenager, penning a weekly column for my small town newspaper. I wrote a popular hiking column for The Daily while I was at the University of Washington. That’s where I started thinking seriously about making a career out of being an outdoors writer. My absolute favorite aspect of my job is the research. I love the field work — going out and finding new places and gaining a sense of discovery every time I hit the trail.
ANW: What else about nature is important to you?
Romano: It’s extremely important for everyone to help conserve these natural wonders. The parks and preserves we hike in wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for people who firmly believe in conservation. There are many powerful interests that only see our natural places as places to exploit. We must instill in our children and elected officials a conservation ethic that calls for wise and sustainable use of our resources that protects lands from the threat of development. As state and federal funding for our parks and forests continue to diminish, it is extremely important that we all get involved in funding, volunteering and protecting our lands.
ANW: You have hiked all over the Northwest. What are some of your absolute favorite hikes?
Romano: Tough question. I have written books covering trails in all four corners of our state. I absolutely love the Mount Baker area, San Juan Islands, Olympic Mountains, Kettle River Range of Eastern Washington, Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier and the Columbia River Gorge.
NW: What are some tips you recommend for people who are just starting out as hikers?
Romano: Absolutely make sure that your physical fitness level matches the hike you are embarking on. A 3-mile hike up a mountain is not the same as a 3-mile walk in a city park. Be prepared. Invest in good footwear. Pack water, food and extra clothing. Consider joining an organization like the Mountaineers where you can take courses and go out with experienced outdoors people to learn tricks and tips. Buy good maps and guidebooks for the region you want to hike. Lastly, always be prepared for changes — changes in the weather, trail conditions, road access, etc. That way you can avoid an unexpected and unpleasant situation. Be flexible and go out with a sense of excitement, discovery and adventure.
ANW: For many people, the word “hiking” conjures images of all-day excursions to remote places. Where are you favorite local hikes when you don’t want to take up a full day?
Romano: I live in Skagit County, which is filled with and surrounded by wonderful places to hike for both quick trips and multi-day excursions. Good short local hiking spots include Mount Vernon’s Little Mountain, The Anacortes Community Forest Lands, Deception Pass State Park, Larrabee State Park, Oyster Dome, Ebey’s Landing on Whidbey Island, Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island and Rockport State Park.