Author publishes a beginner’s guide to mindful hiking in Sonoma County

Paula Phillips Marks was almost 50 when she took her first real hike, and she remembers it vividly. A friend took her on what was supposed to be a short stroll in Annadel State Park. They didn’t have a map and got lost. Seven hours and 11 miles later they limped back to the car.

For many, a first hike of this sort might also have been their last, but not for Marks, who glimpsed what was to become a ruling passion in her life. She signed up for a beginning hiking class at Santa Rosa Junior College, known as The Walking Class, and after the teacher retired, taught the class herself for six years.

Hoping to give new hikers an easier start than she had, Marks has now gathered her favorite beginner hikes into a book called “Soleful Hiking: A Beginner’s Guide to Mindful Hiking.”

The book lists over 50 easy-to-moderate hikes in Sonoma, Napa, Marin and Mendocino Counties in California, preceded by a few chapters on trail etiquette, safety and gear, all charmingly based on Marks’ own hard-won experience. Don’t for instance, leave your hiking boots in the trunk of your car during summer — the heat will melt the glue and separate the soles from the shoes.

“The biggest thing, especially for the beginner, is to take their time and not feel like this is a marathon race back to the car,” she said. “If they can slow themselves down they’re going to pick up on things they would have never seen if they were racing through the parks — a blue heron or a beautiful butterfly or whatever else is going on around you that miss when you’re in a hurry.”

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