After falling in love with the Snoqualmie Valley during his time in the military, author James Szubski became inspired to write book that captured the feel of hiking in the area. In April, he melded his love of hiking and creative writing in his first book “Snoqualmie Strange: A Most Peculiar Hiking Guide.”
A unique mix of real history and fantasy storytelling, “Snoqualmie Strange” is a hiking guide that details the various trails and landmarks that people can visit in the area surrounding the Snoqualmie Falls and mixes in Szubski’s own supernatural fantasy stories related to the real locations in the area.
“I chose the hiking guide format because it’s one that I’m familiar with. I’ve read many, many hiking books over the years. I’ve been a mountaineering guide and forest firefighter and I’ve been in this stuff for decades,” he said.
Unlike standard hiking guides that give the readers as many different routes as possible, “Snoqualmie Strange” takes the reader along three main hikes and goes into detail on the history behind each route. This gives Szubski a chance to tell unique stories about the locations and historic landmarks along each of the routes.
The book tells of magic swords, ancient legends, spirit realms, dragons, and more, mixed in with various historic locations in the wilderness around the Valley.
“Part of the fun of the book is making people wonder where the history ends and the story begins,” he said. “Each hike has got a ‘down the rabbit hole’ section which backs up the things I claim, like there is an illuminated chamber underneath Snoqualmie Falls filled with devices designed by Tesla, which is true, and if you go look at one of the videos referenced in the book you will learn all about it from the power plant video that is there.”
Originally from Ohio, Szubski came out to Washington when he was stationed in Fort Lewis in 1988. During his military service he had visited the Valley and found himself attracted to the natural beauty of the area and knew he wanted to live here.
After leaving the military he graduated from Evergreen State College and began working at various gaming and publishing companies in the area. In 2014, Szubski moved to Snoqualmie, where he has taken to hiking and exploring, as well as learning about the history of the Valley.
“I began to really endeavor to learn as much about the history as possible. Learning about the hydro plant, mill site and the Weyerhaeuser operation,” he said. “Dave Battey would give talks and I would go back into the archives to look at pictures, read the books like ‘Memories of a Mill Town’ and those kinds of things.”
In September 2016, Szubski started putting a lot of time into working on “Snoqualmie Strange.” Speaking with Snoqualmie historians such as Dave Battey, looking through the archives and books available at the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum as well as hiking the trails. He finished the book in April and self published it through Amazon.
After publishing “Snoqualmie Strange” in both ebook and paperback formats, Szubki said the book had more than 900 downloads and purchases in the first week, and receiving good reviews on Amazon. Local businesses started reaching out to him to get copies of the book in their stores, as well.
“The success has been much more than I expected,” he said. “This is a book that would probably not get published by a traditional publisher. As a hiking guide, the game is all about how many hikes do you have? Having worked in the publishing industry before, I know that they have to sell things into stores and if it doesn’t fit into a standard category, the stores are reluctant to pick it up.”
Szubski is now working on a second volume of “Snoqualmie Strange” that will cover the area around Rattlesnake Lake.
“I wanted people to have an emotional connection to this place by telling this story that is a little bit at the fringes, fun and has dragons living in our forest,” he said. “Between taking photographs and having the history straight and having references that are accessible, I wanted to have fun and blur the line. It’s not so much a book with a story that you read and put away, it’s an invitation to go explore these amazing places and wonder about what has happened there.”
For more information, visit www.snoqualmiestrange.com.