Mount Shasta Writer and Photographer Bubba Suess
By Gary VanDeWalker
Oh, the Places You'll Go!August 2015
By Gary Vandewalker
Photos: Bubba Suess
Ron and Jane Suess first looked into one another’s eyes on Half Dome in Yosemite. This meeting was the first step toward marriage and a child who would embody all their love of the outdoors. Their son, Bubba Suess, followed in the steps of John Muir, walking the length and breadth of the wilderness. He became a travel guide to the trails of Northern California.
Suess began backpacking at age 5. With the spirit of the early pioneers, his passion turned into hundreds of miles of journeys, where he wrote about the trails and photographed the landscape. His efforts culminated in a website and are now producing a series of hiking guides, inspiring others to follow in his steps.
“My brother is 12 years older than me,” Suess says. “He was already an accomplished outdoorsman when I got started.” Cub Scouts followed into Boy Scouts and Suess began a regiment of monthly forays into the California wilderness.
The Eagle Scout pushed on to college, then during graduate school in Texas, he discovered a new love for the trails of the southwest. “In school, I did a lot of writing and researching for classes which seemed tedious,” Suess says. “I’d go to hike, and there would be no information. I begin to research and write on everything I would do and find outdoors, filling a vacuum inside me.”
Suess found the writing complemented his trail work. Armed with his journals and photographs, he took to the Internet and began to add to a website driven by user content. The next seven years, he added his work to the sites of others. In 2013, Suess started his own website: hikemtshasta.com. This choice changed his focus. “I wanted to show people the opportunities for big and small adventures,” Suess says.
Suess’ shelves are filled with a healthy number of Falcon Guides, a chief publisher of hiking literature. His website attracted the attention of a Falcon publisher who approached Suess and asked him to write a guide on the Mount Shasta area, to be followed up by a guide on the Napa Wine Country. While Suess had walked and documented trails in the Mount Shasta area, he began a series of trips into the Napa region to hike, record and prepare the maps and descriptions to guide future hikers. Every bit of trail in his guides, he walked.
“The fun part of the guide is going out on the trail: taking the pictures, developing the descriptions and identifying the places for the cartographers to place on the maps,” Suess says. “An individual trail may have more than 100 things to mark for the map. The challenge is to create a fresh picture in words of each place.”
Hiking the trails has brought many unforgettable experiences. “Once I was hiking in the southwest and a Native American appeared in front of me on his horse,” Suess says. “I learned he lives and roams the trails there. I felt as if I had been transported into the 19th century.” Suess’ Falcon Guide on Mount Shasta was just published and is available online and in local bookstores. The Napa guide will come out this fall.
As the screen saver behind Suess moves through the hundreds of scenic pictures he has taken, Suess reflects, “I want each book to take people to where I’ve been. If not in person, I want them to enjoy being there through my words, take the journey I’ve been on and see
what I have seen.”