If you are a dedicated hiker in the Okanagan and Shuswap region, there’s a good chance you might have crossed paths with Judie Steeves in your outdoors travels.
Steeves began accumulating her knowledge of the outdoors more than 20 years ago as a reporter with the Kelowna Capital News, which she often shared through her outdoors Trail Mix column.
Her newspaper profile introduced her to Murphy Shewchuk, who had noticed that outdoors column in the newspaper which led him to meet with her.
“He said to me he was looking at writing a book about Okanagan Trails, something I had begun to think about doing myself at the time. He thought it would be better if we work together on one book rather than working against each other,” Steeves recalled.
“It has turned out to be a great collaboration. He tends to know more about the North Okanagan and Similkameen trails and my knowledge is more about the Central Okanagan and little bits with the north and south.
“He also knows more about maps, GPS and technology where I am not as good at, so it’s been a good partnership.”
That partnership led to the publication of the Okanagan Tips & Trails in the ’90s, a book that is now available in its fourth update in local bookstores.
The accumulated sales with each new edition have generated sales of from 15,000 to 20,000 books.
“A national bestseller is considered sales of 5,000 so it has been a national bestseller many times over,” Steeves noted
“I am really proud of how it has turned out.”
Besides updated information on trails within the Okanagan and Shuswap region, Steeves is also excited to see every page printed in colour.
“It is definitely the biggest book we’ve done. When the first one came out the idea was to have something you could put in your backpack and refer to it when out hiking,” she said.
“But it’s a bit heavier now so carrying it in a backpack may not be as convenient, but people today tend to take the information they want, save it on their electronic device, whether it be photos or maps, and just use that.
“But there is a ton of information in it, with a bunch of new trails added, colour pages throughout, so it’s evolved into more of a coffee table book.
“Readers can have an armchair holiday by just reading it, looking at the photos and follow up some of the links provided. There is just so much neat stuff in it now.”
Steeves says hiking opportunities across the region abound, continuing to expand as the area population and various levels of government fund trail building initiatives have been developed.
She doesn’t profess to have a favourite trail, saying many trails offer different opportunities to enjoy being out in nature — Fintry Creek, Mount Boucherie, Monashee Mountains, Trepanier in Peachland, Okanagan Mountain Park, Pincushion Mountain.
She says concerns about ticks and encountering wildlife can be addressed mainly by following common sense.
For ticks, she said they tend to most prevalent in early spring.
“They like to burrow into your hair or around your ears, so after returning home from a hike, give your hair a good combing, brush off your clothes and have a shower. I have never had a tick burrow into me since I was a kid. “
As for wildlife, she says to keep your pet dog at home if you have one, as they can attract nervous animal moms prepared to aggressively defend any perceived threat of their pups, as in the wildlife hierarchy dogs rank as the equivalent of coyotes.
“And it is really important not to go out hiking alone. If you get into trouble, hurt yourself or break a leg, there is not always cell phone coverage everywhere in the backcountry. Hiking with other people is always advisable.”