The Trailmaster, author John McKinney, is often asked to give talks and sign books. These public appearances are a great opportunity to meet fellow hikers, to answer their questions and hear their stories. It’s deeply satisfying when people tell me they admire my writing and that I’ve inspired them to take a hike.

Author John McKinney at a recent appearance in Santa Barbara: "The best part of these events is meeting fellow hikers."
Author John McKinney at a recent appearance in Santa Barbara: “The best part of these events is meeting fellow hikers.”
(Of course, as any writer and book publisher will tell you, author appearances are not just for sharing one’s expertise and telling entertaining tales. Author John McKinney and every writer is in business. We want to sell our books!)

I met a particularly intriguing group of people who like to walk and hike at a recent author appearance in my hometown. Santa Barbara offers a kind of art walk/cultural happening on the first Thursday of the month called “First Thursday.” Art supporters and publishers Mark Whitehurst and Kerry Methner invited me to display my books at their Casa Gallery and talk about my writing.

Here’s how my appearance was billed: “Trailmaster John McKinney is at it again—inviting locals and visitors alike to enjoy life on the trail—especially in and around Santa Barbara. Meet John and peruse “WALK Santa Barbara,” “COAST WALKS Santa Barbara” and “HIKE Santa Barbara.”

I met a young couple contemplating a trek on the John Muir Trail and encouraged the pair to go for it. Last summer I helped my son Daniel and two buddies plan and hike the JMT, so I had fresh and practical experience to share.

A distressed 30-something fellow asked me to autograph a copy of “HIKE Santa Barbara” to his girlfriend who likes to hike. Make that ex-girlfriend. She broke up with him last week. His plan was to present her with a copy of my pocket hiking guide, invite her on a hike, and hope she might reconsider their relationship while they walked a local trail together.

Happily married: Isabel and Peter Dalbadie, who met on a Sierra Club hike
Happily married: Isabel and Peter Dalbadie, who met on a Sierra Club hike
A happier tale of romance came from Isabel and Peter Dalbadie, who told me the story of how they met on a Sierra Club-sponsored hike. Happily married now, with a school-age child, they still love to hike. But they do have the concern of many moms and dads these days: how to get kids away from digital devices and back into nature.

I very much enjoyed meeting A. Michael Marzolla, Founder and CEO of Excogitation Services, which offers environmental education program design and development consulting, art and photography. We chatted about two common interests: getting kids into nature and the many hidden trails and stairways on Santa Barbara’s Riviera.

Thea Goepfert, Ph.D., told me she likes to hike and is a healer by profession. She practices “Sound Healing” with therapeutic singing bowls. We agreed that what her form of healing and hiking had in common was help in alleviating insomnia and stress, as well as helping people relax and get more centered.

A memorable book-signing it was, with good wine and great conversation. I heard stories from people whose lives have been touched by hiking, signed some books and told a few stories myself. Three hours just flew by, and I when I left the gallery, I felt very blessed by the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people.