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Hiking Guides Take Strong Stand on Preservation

Northwest: Author and photographer translate their love of the outdoors into environmental advocacy.


EDMONDS, Wash. — Their guidebooks get hikers from Point A to Point B on the trails that wind through the woods of the Pacific Northwest.

But the dozens of volumes that writer Harvey Manning and photographer Ira Spring have published over the years prod readers to do more than just strap on a pair of boots and set out for a stroll through the wilderness.

They call out for foot soldiers willing to walk the extra political mile it takes to preserve the forests in their backyards and beyond.

And they do it with attitude.

"We do not step around gross and immobile obscenities blocking our feet but crank up and kick butt," Manning writes in the introduction to "100 Classic Hikes in Washington." "We heartily wish the same would be done by the row upon row of newcomers to bookstore shelves. Why else are they there?"

Manning talks the way he writes --with a fiery edge.

He's a 75-year-old Santa Claus look-alike who wears faded T-shirts and corduroys instead of the red suit, and he laughs jovially as he tells stories about how he has infuriated politicians, developers, loggers and anyone else who has stood in his way.

Spring is different. Slender, gray-haired and 81, he is a mild-mannered diplomat. He shakes his head when Manning calls bureaucrats and others who disagree with him "marginal in the brain department."

But together, they get things done.

They've taken their message to Capitol Hill and helped get bills through Congress. They've led the push to preserve and expand trail systems and create more national parks.

It all started in 1966, when Manning and Spring published their first guidebook together, titled "100 Hikes in Western Washington." The Mountaineers Books, an offshoot of the Mountaineers, a Seattle-based outdoor activity and conservation club, printed 5,000 copies--enough, they thought, to last a couple of years.

"Well, they sold out in three weeks," Spring recalls. "And then again five weeks after that." So they expanded, publishing "101 Hikes in the North Cascades," then "102 Hikes in the South Cascades."

"It's been like a marriage ever since," Spring says.

More than 400,000 copies of their books have been sold. They've published more than 20 titles, updating them about every five years.

Once a book salesman, Manning spent 10 years writing for the University of Washington's public relations department and editing the alumni magazine.

Spring, co-founder of the Washington Trails Assn., has been taking photographs since he was 12, when he and his twin brother, Bob, were given cameras. For years, the Spring brothers made their living shooting advertisements for everyone from Eastman Kodak to Canadian Club whiskey.

Now Ira Spring and his wife, Pat, live in Edmonds, 20 miles north of Seattle. Manning and his wife, Betty, live about 15 miles east of Seattle on Cougar Mountain.

Both grew up with a love of the outdoors, but they haven't always been environmental activists.

Manning was reared in and around Seattle, where relatives worked in the timber industry. Spring grew up in Shelton, a small logging town south of Olympic National Forest.

"I used to say, 'Why don't you just accept reality? This is timber country,' " says Manning.

Eventually, though, they realized that lands they cherished could be clear-cut if left in the wrong politicians' hands. So they got involved and started making noise.

They fought for passage of the 1984 Washington Wilderness Act, which added more than 1 million acres to the state's protected wilderness.

A few months after Spring delivered marked-up copies of their books noting that most of the trails were unprotected, the law sailed through Congress with bipartisan support. President Ronald Reagan, Manning writes, "was so disgruntled that he signed the measure in secrecy."

These days the two are pushing for better maintenance of trails, which they say have suffered from budget cuts to the U.S. Forest Service.

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