Estes Park photographer and author Erik Stensland says his photography was “an attempt to figure out how to get paid to hike.”
That career decision has launched has earned Stensland another award. His 2019 book “Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park: The Essential Guide” was recognized as Best Travel Book of the Year by the Independent Book Publishers Association at their 32nd annual award ceremony.
“Having my work evaluated and then honored as one of the best books in the country published by an independent publishing company is a great honor,” Stensland said. “Maybe I’m headed in the right direction.”
This is Stensland’s third book to win a Benjamin Franklin Award. In 2015 his book “Wild Light: A Celebration of Rocky Mountain National Park” won a gold award for best Nature and Environment Book of the Year and a silver in the Coffee Table Book category.
“This is a hiking guide to assist the nearly five million visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park each year,” Stensland commented. “I basically went back to the beginning and looked at dozen of hiking guides from all over the country and started to think ‘If I was coming, what do I need to know? Where do I start? How do I make decisions?’”
The soft-cover book is 512 pages filled with color photos showing hikers what to expect in each location. It includes custom-made maps that are easy to read and follow.
Stensland re-measured each trail to make sure the distances are accurate. It was a massive undertaking that took nearly a year to complete.
“I spend nearly 100 pages trying to fill people in on everything they need to know before hitting the trails,” Stensland explained. “I spend a lot of time explaining trail etiquette. I write about altitude, lightning, bears and what to do if you get lost.”
Stensland has been hiking since he was a child. He moved to Estes Park in 2004 and opened his gallery, Images of Rocky Mountain National Park at 203 Park Lane behind Bond Park, in 2005.
He has published six books for far and is working on two more at the moment. His previous publicatio, “Whispers in the Wilderness” won five national awards. His next book is a follow-up to Whispers.
“I look at the natural world and try to use it as a tool to help us see ourselves and to understand some of the deeper things going on inside us,” Stensland said. “How do we pursue wholeness and health? What does goodness look like?”
This next book is schedule to be published in the Spring of 2021.
You can find (and buy) Stensland’s books and photographs as well as notecards and calendars at his gallery in Estes Park. He also has a gallery at Studio 8369 in Grand Lake and at “Images of the Desert” gallery in Abiquiu, New Mexico.