"Kansas Trail Guide" was recently named to the 2016 Kansas Notable Books List.
"Kansas Trail Guide" was recently named to the 2016 Kansas Notable Books List. The list honors 15 books either written by Kansas authors or about a Kansas-related topic. Authors Dr. Jonathan Conard and Kristin Conard are siblings who grew up in south central Kansas.
Dr. Jonathan Conard has studied at Kansas State University and now teaches biology and ecology at Sterling College. Kristin Conard has a master's degree in writing from the University of Sussex, and along with teaching writing, she is a freelance travel writer with publications in Travel and Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler.
"I've always been passionate about hiking, camping, and being outdoors," Jonathan said. "The more I got to know trails in Kansas, the more I realized people didn't always appreciate or know about some of the scenic areas that we have here in the state and no real resource for those who were interested in the trails."
Kansas has more than 100 trails for walking, biking or riding and the Kansas Trail Guide includes descriptions of 80 trails arranged by region. Each region has a featured trail that the Conards have traveled personally. Jonathan said it took around 18 months to complete their research of the trails.
"It was a lot of traveling, a lot of hiking," Jonathan said. "It was nice to work with (Kristin) on that."
The book includes information about GPS coordinates, how to get to the trailheads, where to park, which trails are open for cyclists, hikers and/or horseback riders, suggestions for nearby outfitters and restaurants, the best options for camp sites, points of interest, a route description and the history of the trail, along with a full-color topographical map.
"We wanted to help people get as much as they can out of their hike," Jonathan said. "You appreciate (the trail) more if you know about it."
Jonathan noted that while some trails can be a challenge for even avid hikers, some are perfect for grandparents to walk with their grandkids.
"We tried to aim for a wide audience," Jonathan said. "We wanted to put together a guide that has something for everyone."
Jonathan said some trails led him to areas that were abundant with wildlife, birds and native plants. He visited the salt marshes, teeming with birds, at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and saw bison, prairie chickens and native wildflowers at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.
"There's kind of a surprising amount of variety (of trails)," Jonathan noted. "There are some surprisingly beautiful and fairly challenging trails. There's a lot of places that break the stereotype of flat, open places."
Jonathan mentioned one of his favorite trails is the Elk River trail found in southeast Kansas, near Independence. The trail features a heavily wooded area, bluffs, rocks and boulders.
Being named to the Kansas Notable Books list was a surprise to him and his sister, Jonathan said.
"That was pretty cool, especially for a hiking guide," Jonathan said. "It was an honor; there were a lot of quality books, so we were pretty excited about it."
Jonathan said those who don't enjoy hiking may want to give it another chance.
"Find an area that you're excited about," Jonathan advised, "and avoid miserable conditions. Go in the fall or nice early winter days, when there are no bugs, ticks or mosquitoes. If you catch a nice day in the fall, that's a good time to check out what's out there."