Author transforms outdoor passion into a book

By Michael Zimmerman

March 18, 2014

Author Tammy York spends much of her free time outside the comfortable confines of sealed, temperature-controlled spaces. She’s an outdoor enthusiast, and that love of nature led her to put ink to paper in ’60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Cincinnati’ to guide area hikers around the area. She’ll discuss the book and give some hiking tips at the Preble County District Library’s Eaton Branch on Thursday, March 27 at 6:30 p.m.

York spent a large portion of her early life avoiding chores in the woods near her grandparents’ farm outside Connersville, Indiana. What started as a simple escape from farm labor led to a life-long obsession.

“It’s peace, adventure, excitement,” York said in a recent interview. “Those are the words I’d use to describe what draws me to nature. It’s never the same thing. One day, you hike a trail under an overcast sky and no wind. The next day, hiking the same trail, the birds are out fighting over territories and the katydids are chirping and it’s sunny. It’s bedlam. It’s awesome.”

Those early years off the farm, away from the distractions of an urban life, cultivated her love of outdoors. There were no developed theaters, shopping malls, or parks. But there were woods, an abundance of unrefined, undeveloped nature.

“If you didn’t want to be doing chores all day, you disappeared after lunch and played until it was dinner time,” York said. “There wasn’t a park, just a hundred acres filled with fields, woods, and streams. I grew up with nature as my playground. You made your own adventures.”

That passion for what she calls “goofing off” outdoors led her to Purdue University, where she earned a degree in Wildlife Management. And it’s a love that never wore away or deteriorated. York now has more than two decades of field experience in state parks, wildlife areas, and forests throughout Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.

After all that time outdoors, York hooked up with Menasha Ridge Press, who publishes the ’60 Hikes Within 60 Miles’ series.

“I always wondered why hiking books were written for an entire state when people live in or near cities and tend to want to stay within about an hour drive of their homes,” she said.

Several years ago, she queried publishers with this idea of a local guide before finding out about the ’60 Hikes’ line of books. Prior to the book, York also wrote for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, as well as some freelance work.

In hindsight, that was the easy part. It took two years to get from inception to the book being on shelves. York worked her way through her rolodex and got information on countless hiking trails in the area, keeping a critical eye on each of them.

“I asked them what they liked to hike and why,” she said. “The ‘why’ was very important to me. For me, it got at the heart of what made the place special. What was the connection? Why did it feel serene? Why was it beautiful?”

After narrowing her list, York hit the trails, armed with her GPS, camera, notebooks, and Internet radio. The biggest challenge was weather. A few of the trails were flooded for several weeks. Another challenge for York was staying indoors to clack away on her computer keyboard.

“The writing wasn’t hard,” she said. “The hard part was staying inside when the weather was nice. I’m not good at that. I like being outdoors.”

Many people ask York about the best trails in the area, and she didn’t get out of this interview without that same question.

“Every trail has something special to offer,” she said. “I like Clifty Falls, because it is rugged and beautiful. I like Miami Whitewater Forest, because when the kids were little, one was in a stroller, the other on a bike with training wheels, I could get out and enjoy the fresh air and listen to the frogs while they explored.”

York also noted trails from Adams County, including The Wilderness Trail, Buzzardroost, and Allegheny Mound Ants in the Adams County Lake State Nature Preserve.

She had a few tips for new hikers, as well.

“Know your limits, pack plenty of water, let someone know where you’re going, and have more than one map of the area,” she said. “But the biggest point is that it isn’t a race. I see so many people on the trail scurrying along like they’re trying to catch a bus. They look beleaguered. They don’t seem to be having much fun. I think that’s because they are viewing the hike as a destination: point B. Instead, realize the hike is about what happens between point A and point B and what you learn about yourself.”

York’s March 27 visit is part of the Preble County District Library’s participation in The Big Read, a Dayton-area community book event. This year’s book chosen for The Big Read is ‘Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail’ by Cheryl Strayed. It’s a program aimed not only at getting communities to read the same book, but getting the community into a discussion.

The visit by York ties in with the hiking theme of this year’s Big Read. The PCDL is also hosting a book discussion for ‘Wild’ on Thursday, April 10 at 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit

For more information on other library programs, go to,, or on Twitter @PrebleLibrary.