Finding Nature in Hanover: Self-Published Guide Favors the Physical Book Over the Digital Ether

Friday, August 29, 2014
Hanover — For a good part of his day job, Steve Smith writes content for the social-media sites of Dartmouth College’s alumni-relations office.

For his 41-page book, Top 10 Natural Places to Visit in Hanover, New Hampshire: A Walking Guide, he couldn’t imagine going digital-only, even though he was self-publishing the package.

“I wanted something physical that people could put in their backpacks,” Smith said this week. “There are apps you can use for finding trails, but I like to think there’s a need for something more traditional like this.”

For his first and only act of market research, Smith gave his son’s third-grade class a sneak preview last year.

“I first showed them a guide book to Arizona, then a guide book to Costa Rica,” he recalled. “Then I brought out the proofs of my book. The kids would shout when they saw photos of places they recognized, and they thought it was pretty cool that I was working on a guide book of their town.”

It’s pretty cool as well for those of us of more doddering vintage who have visited at least a few or even most of these oases, several within a 10- or 15-minute walk of the Hanover Inn.

Along with color photos by the author and sharp, topographic-style maps by Bradford, Vt., resident Courtney Cania, Smith offers background on each of the natural places, and suggests routes to follow to, in and around them. In addition to Pine Park between the Connecticut River and the Hanover Country Club and Balch Hill on the way to Etna, and Appalachian Trail segments to Velvet Rocks and Moose Mountain, Smith highlights the fields and woodlands around Huntington Hill off Goodfellow Road, a couple of routes around Mink Brook, and a couple of walks around Oak Hill and Storrs Pond.

Smith, who grew up in Greater Boston, said that he and his wife discovered most of these places shortly after they moved their young family to Hanover in 2006, partly for Smith’s work and partly for the chance to live near the Vermont and New Hampshire mountains and waterways they’d explored before their son and daughter were born.

“We were pretty adventurous,” Smith recalled. “We had two young kids, and liked getting them outside as much as possible.”

In the early going, while the couple lived in an apartment of North Park Street, the family started with the small, Dartmouth-owned park containing the Robert Frost statue and Bartlett Tower.

“It was pretty small compared with even some of the small places in the book,” Smith said. “But for a 1-year-old and an infant, that was like a national park.”

The farther out they explored, the more Smith started considering a family-friendly guide book. Gaining additional inspiration from photographer Eli Burakian’s coffee-table book, Moosilauke: Portrait of a Mountain, Smith eventually, and reluctantly, found himself weeding out places he really enjoys from the final package.

“Choosing the 10, it did take some time,” Smith said. “I tried to think of the variety of landscapes. I wanted to get in at least one waterfall, which we did with Slade Brook. And I didn’t want to overdo it with the Appalachian Trail.”

If he ever does a follow-up guide exploring other areas, Smith would welcome working with a publisher such as Countryman Press in Woodstock, which publishes the 50 Hikes series of books on trails through the White Mountains that the former Orford resident Daniel Doan started in the 1970s, and that Doan’s daughter Ruth Doan MacDougall has been revising and updating since her father’s death in 1993.

And digital revolution or no digital revolution, he’s pledging not to write solely for the Internet .

“I hope there’s still an appreciation for print,” Smith concluded. “I think the pendulum might be swinging back. I have college friends who work in computers and software development, and there’s a little sense of things swinging back.

“Fingers crossed ...”

(Copies of Top 10 Natural Places to Visit in Hanover, New Hampshire are available at Dartmouth Bookstore for $14.95)

From the Author’s Mouth

As part of the book-discussion series that the Vermont Humanities Council is sponsoring at the Que-chee Library on the topic of early contact between Native Americans and Europeans in the territory that is now Vermont and the Champlain Basin, Dartmouth Prof. Colin Calloway will talk on Sept. 15 about his book, New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans and the Remaking of Early America. The reading and discussion, for which copies of the book will be available for borrowing, begins at 7 p.m.

∎ The Thetford Libraries will play host to a reception for Thetford Center author Virginia Davenport on Sept. 6, from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Latham Library Gallery. Davenport will sign and read her new book, Coming Home.

∎ Writers for the literary magazine Bloodroot will hold their final reading of 2014 at Thetford’s Latham Library on Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. The magazine and the readings were founded by Ethel Dolores “Do” Roberts, who died last winter.

Eyes on the Prize

Vermont Magazine and Green Mountain Power are inviting Vermont residents — seasonal as well as year-round — and students at Vermont colleges and universities to submit essays, short stories and poems of no more than 1,500 words to their annual contest for the Vermont Writers’ Prize. Nov. 1 is the deadline to enter the contest, which the magazine and the utility created in honor of Vermont historian Ralph Nading Hill Jr. This year’s topic is, “Vermont — Its People, the Place, Its History or Its Values.”

The contest is open to amateur and professional writers alike. An independent panel of judges will pick the winning submission, which the magazine will publish in its March/April 2015 edition. The author receives a cash prize of $1,500. The last winner was Michael Nethercott of Guilford, Vt., for his story, A n Empire at Twilight.

Entries should be mailed to Vermont Writers’ Prize, c/o Green Mountain Power, 163 Acorn Lane, Colchester, Vt. 05446. For additional information, visit greenmountainpower.com and Vermontmagazine.com.


Lebanon artist Peter Vinton Jr. will celebrate the recent release of his new graphic novel, The Monitor, during a launch party at the Filling Station in White River Junction on Sept. 21 at 4 p.m. Vinton will sign book one of the sci-fi story, which envisions a second American Revolution breaking out in 2050, again in Boston. Copies are available at amazon.com.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.