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Q & A

Authors' Q&A: FAQ

Is there more info about the coauthors, John Wolfe and Rebecca Wolfe?

Call us Becca and John. That's us, above (photo by Anne Raup). This book runs in the family, starting with John's mom (more below). John has been going on trips for 'the book' since age 6 or 7, Becca since before she could walk. Both of us grew up in Anchorage. Both went out of state for college. John is a retired environmental planner who wrote environmental impact statements. He also founded the Alaska Huts Association. Becca holds a degree in Architecture and is finishing her exams to be a licensed architect.

Where's Helen these days?

Helen Nienhueser (that's her in the first photo below) has been the driving force behind 55 Ways since the 1960s, when the Mountaineers Books and Mountaineering Club of Alaska identified a need for an Alaska hiking guide. She is John's mom and Becca's grandma. Helen is 86 in 2022 and lives in Anchorage. She keeps fit walking, hiking, and cross-country skiing. She loves spending time winter and summer at her backcountry cabins. She bowed out of authorship for the new book, but she wrote the Foreword. You should read it.

So this book has been around for quite a while?

In 1967, the Mountaineers Books in Seattle and the Mountaineering Club of Alaska in Anchorage published a booklet, 30 Hikes in Alaska, edited by William Hauser. Helen Nienhueser (then Helen Wolfe) contributed substantially as an active member of MCA. When the parties committed to an expanded book, Helen became the author, Nancy Simmerman the photographer, and Hans van der Laan the map maker. (See the black and white photo below.) 55 Ways to the Wilderness in Southcentral Alaska debuted in 1972. John, current coauthor, was nine. Becca was twenty-some years in the future. John started as formal coauthor with Helen in 1994, with the 4th edtion. (See photo below.) The book has been in the family for fifty-plus years, three generations, five previous editions, and many printings--and now there is a whole new version, Alaska Adventure 55 Ways.

What's it like to write a guidebook?

It's fun! ...Mostly. Being 'forced' to hike sometimes can be exhausting, but it is a great way to see a lot of old favorite terrain and new landscapes in a short time. It takes a while to make a book, even on an accelerated 'publish by the 50th Anniversary' schedule. We began in summer 2020 with the fieldwork and did a lot of hiking. That lapped into April 2021 for spring ski trips. Winter 2020-21 became the primary writing time. It is quite a shift from exercising your quads outdoors to exercising your typing fingers at the keyboard but interesting in its own way, and there is less risk of rain or mosquitos. Lots of sifting through photos and drawing 'map scrap' with the help of CalTopo, aerial photos, paper maps, and GPS apps. Once we shipped the full manuscript, maps, and photos, we had multiple reviews of text and the laid-out pages with our publishing team before the book went to the printer in January 2022. There's a lot of work, but it is a great family project and supports the non-profit Mountaineers to boot. Photos below give a little flavor of the fieldwork and writing processes.

Do you sell copies yourselves?

We coauthors expect to keep a small supply of books on hand for perhaps a year after the book is published and can sell directly to interested folks. Advantages to you: guaranteed signed copy and a chance to ask questions. Advantages to us: a chance to meet our readers and a bit better percentage of the sales price. Use the "Whisper in our ear" link on the Home page to get in touch.

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