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Local duo’s guide book urges folks to take a hike

“The more we read about health and longevity, these longer-duration, slower-duration output activities are actually what keep you young and healthy.”
— Michele Hernandez Bayliss

WEYBRIDGE/BRISTOL — Longtime friends Michele Hernandez Bayliss and Dean Ouellette have spent several years hiking in tandem and in small groups throughout the Northeast. They’ve accumulated a mountain of memories — some humorous, some hair raising — during their mini-expeditions.

Now they’re looking to share their experiences — and invite others to make memories of their own — as part of a new book they’ve co-authored called, “Climb Every Mountain: 46 of the Northeast’s 111 Hikes over 4,000 Feet.” The book will become available May 15 — just as hikers of all abilities are preparing to lace up their books and don their backpacks for adventures on the many challenging, scenic trails that permeate New England and New York’s precious peaks.

It was around six years ago that Hernandez Bayliss, a Weybridge resident, and Bristol’s Ouellette thought about putting into print their love for — and experience with — hiking. Each has compiled an amazing resume that includes conquests of the 46 high peaks in New York’s Adirondack Mountains and the Northeast 111, just to name a few.

LONGTIME FRIENDS MICHELE Hernandez Bayliss and Dean Ouellette have collaborated on a new guidebook, called “Climb Every Mountain,” that offers detailed accounts on how to tackle 46 mountain hikes in the Northeast.

Ouellette remembers the exact moment when a book came into focus. He, Hernandez Bayliss and another friend were on a summer hike along one of the tougher trails in the Adirondacks. As tough as it was to navigate during the summer, it was a lot harder during the winter, Ouellette remarked to the friend, recounting the same hike during winter months.

“We got to a spot where there was this wall of snow, and I remembered how I couldn’t get over and I fell sideways into the snow. I remember getting up and looking at Michele and saying, ‘I’m running out of gas,’” Ouellette said of the conversation. “There was a pause and our friend Mike said, ‘And that’s how your book should start.’ And that got the juices flowing a little bit as to, ‘We should do a book.’”

Hernandez Bayliss was completely on board, and it helped that she’s no stranger to writing books. Bestselling ones — such as, “A is for Admission,” as a co-founder of Top Tier Admissions, a nationally renowned college admissions consulting firm.

So Hernandez Bayliss gathered her old trail reports and a wealth of other information to set the solid foundation for a book.

Their initial literary collaboration featured chapter stories of hikes they had done, with hiking verbiage and anecdotes.

“My idea was to make it a fun, documentary-like hiking book,” Hernandez Bayliss said. “I sent (the manuscript) out to my agent, who sent it out to a bunch of publishers.”

The response, according to Hernandez Bayliss: All of the publishers liked it but were unsure if the hiking community was big enough to become invested in trail-related stories.

But one publishing company — Connecticut-based FalconGuides — was eager to take “Climb Every Mountain” under its wing, with one caveat: That the book be reworked as a more utilitarian guidebook.

“I was like, ‘Oh, great!’” Hernandez Bayliss said, adding with a smile, “we didn’t anticipate how much work that would be.”

So the co-authors transformed the book from a collection of great stories into effective, user-friendly trail reports. They were able to preserve some of their anecdotes to make the trail reports more approachable.

The two connected often during the writing process to make sure they shared the same recollections about specific hikes. Hernandez Bayliss took on most of the actual writing, while Ouellette was in charge of the corresponding maps.

“He had to read each one of my writeups, fix everything and make sure the maps and coordinates worked — and that took a while,” Hernandez Bayliss said. “He did all the mapping, the rundowns and GPS stuff.

“He thought my job was harder, but I thought his job was harder,” she added.

The hiking feats of the co-authors come into jaw dropping perspective when glancing at the list of their hiking trail conquests — all 46 of them, stacked one on top of the other. From Big Slide in the Adirondacks, to Hunter Mountain in the Catskills, to Vermont’s Mount Mansfield, to Mount Tecumseh in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, to North Brother in Maine.

The five Vermont hikes, in addition to Mt. Mansfield, involve Camel’s Hump, Mount Abraham, Mt. Ellen and Killington Mountain.

Hernandez Bayliss and Ouellette stress their book isn’t intended to foist peer pressure on hikers to emulate all of their exploits. The title, “Climb Every Mountain,” is meant to signal encouragement, and the writers’ intent is for each hiker to bite off as much terrain as each can chew, while enjoying the views along the way.

PRE-HIKE LEGWORK

“Climb Every Mountain” removes most of the pre-hike legwork so you can focus on making your legs work. Each hike profile includes a map, GPS coordinates and a “rundown” that features multiple factoids — including location or trailhead, round-trip milage of hike, summit elevation, the level of difficulty, average hiking time (on average, 6-11 hours) and nearest town. You get a rundown of any particularly steep grades and/or special sights along the way. Photos are sprinkled throughout the book. And as a bonus, the authors tell you if each trail is canine-friendly, the quality of views, and “special considerations” — such as whether the trailhead is busy and if there’s ample parking.

Also of great help —appendices depicting:

  • 17 additional hikes on route to the Northeast’s 111.
  • Recommended attire for completing the various hikes during winter months.

“We see a lot of people not carrying enough stuff,” Hernandez Bayliss noted of some of the more novice hikers who embark on lengthy hikes underdressed, unprepared for the colder temperatures and prospects of rapid changes in weather as they climb higher.

“We carry enough stuff so that we could spend the night (outdoors) if we had to; we wouldn’t have to call for rescue,” she added.

“Climb Every Mountain” will be available through Amazon and local outlets — like Middlebury’s Vermont Book Shop —beginning May 15. The book will be part of the Vermont Book Shop’s “Vermont Author Series” talk at Middlebury’s Ilsley Library on Tuesday, June 6, at 7 p.m.

Hernandez Bayliss and Ouellette — who is the Energy and Technology Manager at Middlebury College — have high hopes for the book and believe readers will get a lot out of it.

“The more we read about health and longevity, these longer-duration, slower-duration output activities are actually what keep you young and healthy,” Hernandez Bayliss said.

“People don’t realize what they’re capable of doing until they start doing it,” Ouellette said. “If they start doing these shorter hikes like Mt. Abe, Mt. Mansfield, Cascade and Camel’s Hump — it might actually hook them. And if it hooks them, they have the book to take them further.”

Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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