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Take a Hike

Local writer Nathan Lott talks about his search for walks within an hour of town.



Style: When did you start working on "60 Hikes"?

Lott: The concept is actually part of a series, "60 Hikes Within 60 Miles" of other cities like New York and D.C. I did some editorial work with the publisher a couple of years back, so when I first moved to Richmond, they offered me the chance to do it. At first, I was a little reluctant because I hadn't lived in the city that long, but it turned out to be a really good way to get to know it. So I tried to put a lot of history and ecology and other auxiliary information in the book to make the hikes more meaningful, rather than just directions. It turned out to be a very educational process for me about the history of Virginia.

Did you actually go on all of the hikes in the book?

I did them all, and I did them all with a handheld GPS device. A Global Positioning Satellite tracks your point on the globe using latitude and longitude, and then you plug it into mapping software and it will show where you've been on the map. That's how we created all the maps in the book. I also took all of the photographs.

Did you do this by yourself or did you have company?

It was a combination of things, but I wound up doing most of the hikes by myself or with my dog, who really enjoyed it. She was good for six to eight miles if she was feeling spry.

Did you find a favorite hike?

I had different favorites for different reasons, different criteria. There's trails out in New Kent County called Wahrani Nature Park. It's a compact network, and to my knowledge the map I created is the only one out there. It wasn't too long, but very exploratory, to go out there and hike all the trails, trying to figure out what's out there. One of the things I enjoyed the most, and didn't anticipate, are the hikes out near the Chesapeake Bay and the larger rivers on marshes — and that whole ecology not usually associated with hiking.

How were hikes around Richmond compared with other places?

One of the things that can be a challenge about this part of the country really is that it's one of the oldest English-speaking civilizations, and there's the oldest record of land ownership. There's not nearly as much public land as a result. As opposed to taking a hundred options and whittling it down to sixty, the task for me was trying to pinpoint sixty really good options within the geographic area because there aren't these large swaths of forest land.

Is there a message here?

There's a spirit behind the book and behind the whole series that people should be able to experience the outdoors, get exercise or go for a hike without having to spend more time in the car than they do on the trail. A lot of the parks in the book are integrated into a community. They may not all be traditional hikes, although there are certainly serious long-distance hikes in the book. It's sort of an expansive definition of hike. I think the outdoors should be integrated into everyday life in different ways. Richmond has a pretty good set of options for that sort of outdoor experience. S

Nathan Lott will be at Fountain Bookstore Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. during the Grand Illumination for a book signing and Dec. 16 from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. for a reading and signing.

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