Lauren Braden feels best when she’s out in nature. Born in the Midwest, Braden said birdwatching “hooked” her to the outdoors. Now, the Washington transplant has spent the majority of that time writing and educating Pacific Northwest residents about local outdoor adventures through the Seattle Audubon Society; Washington Trail Association; and its local trip-planning website, Northwest TripFinder.
The COVID-19 pandemic turned out to be the perfect time to do what she always wanted to do: write a book. His book, 52 Paths to Nature: Washingtoncame out in June.
What inspired you to write this book?
For this topo, I wanted to create a book accessible to beginners. When I first moved here 25 years ago, I was fresh out of college. I started working for associations, and the office was empty on Friday lunchtimes because everyone was going kayaking or hiking. And it was a little intimidating at first, being from the Midwest, how do I go kayaking? How to hike? When you’re new to it, you don’t know what equipment you need and you don’t know where to go. Over the next few years, I just started following people. I was writing this book, and I didn’t know it. I was gathering all this information, and I started going out, and pretty soon I became this person who was away every weekend. I wrote the book that I always wanted to have myself, a book that invites you to take short forays into nature, but to do it often. And it gives you just enough information to embark on new outdoor adventures.
How is this book different from other guides?
This is no ordinary guide. Adventures are organized by season. There’s a whole year of activities to do throughout the year, rain or shine. Adventures are like mushroom hunting, kayaking, camping, and each adventure is packed with useful practical information. So you can be a total novice, and this book will give you the tools you need to get started. The guides so often focus on locations which is great, and this book also highlights locations, but I wanted more. Each adventure gets four to five places to start. And many of them can be done anywhere. So the big difference between this book and the typical guide is the practical information and the consistent focus on deepening your connection to nature. There are lots of things you can do in your own garden or in your local park. You don’t have to go all the way to Stevens Pass or the Olympic Peninsula to hunt mushrooms, identify native plants or see the stars at night.
Tell us about your process of writing this book.
Much of the content in this book I already had nuggets on Northwest TripFinder. I had been writing about our local adventures since 2008, and I also wrote for the Washington Trails Association and Parent Map. So I had a lot of the content either in my head or I had written it before. But the book itself is new.
I rewrote everything, but I wasn’t starting from scratch. This book is really an accumulation of experiences that I have had throughout my life. I wrote it during the pandemic. I was going to my garden, and I had a table set, and I was pulling out my laptop every day. And so I wrote the book on the outside, but it was kind of weird writing it, being kind of stuck at home, but thinking that when it’s all over, that’s the book that people will want.
What does it mean to you to be able to connect with nature?
How does this influence you? I feel like a stronger, more intact person when I spend quality time outdoors. Whether it’s a walk in the woods or something like a hike, or hanging out in my backyard for an hour. I feel like it’s therapeutic.
What has been most rewarding for you in writing this book?
I wrote the book I always wanted. I will use this book. I’m going to pull this off the shelf and find out what we’re up to this weekend from this book. It’s just full of inspiration. It makes me want to get out, and I hope other people have the same reaction, that it’s a book that they’ll keep on their shelf and pull out once a week and decide, “What I’m going to try this weekend? How am I going to get outside this weekend? And there’s a guide right there to do it step by step and where to go. I just think it’s really exciting.
Find 52 Ways to Nature: Washington wherever books are sold.