Local author and adventurer Lafe Low wrote the book on hiking—literally. After completing 45 excursions along the Appalachian Trail last year, he penned Best Hikes of the Appalachian Trail: New England, an official guidebook complete with a rating system for readers that encompasses kid-friendly trails and those not for the faint of heart. He got us oriented before his signing at the Harvard Coop on June 22.
Complete insanity. [Laughs.] I’ve been a writer and editor forever, mostly tech publishing and stuff like that, but doing outdoors stuff—skiing and camping and kayaking and stuff like that—has always been more of my passion. One of the things I really liked about…the process of doing the hiking book was it made me go places I wouldn’t ordinarily have gone.
Just how absolutely, wildly remote some of these trails are. Most of the remote ones, no surprise, are in Western Maine. A lot of them are not even in legally incorporated townships. One of them I think is in a chunk of land called Andover North Surplus; a couple of them are just grid coordinates.
What was one of your toughest hikes? Old Blue Mountain [in Maine] was probably one of the most surprising ones. The first hour you are truly crisscrossing up the side of a cliff. Usually when I was doing the hikes for the books, I’m hiking along, I have my notebook and pen—but I had to put my stuff in my pockets and use my hands. It was hand-over-hand scrambling up the side of this cliff. It was crazy. I looked back a couple of times and thought, “If I lose my footing here, that’s the end of it.” It was at the top, about a 100-foot cliff with sharp rocks and trees sticking out. It was wild.