Don't Rush Me
Writer/reporter turns passion to business
The outdoor life for Jim
September 15, 2010 - The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. -- Mark Twain
As someone in the print journalism world, I know a lot of electronic media have played up the demise of newspapers. To some extent, that is true. While weekly newspapers like the one you're reading now continue to be strong, viable businesses, dailies have taken a hit.
There are a lot of folks who used to write for daily newspapers who are now twiddling their thumbs or writing "great American novels. But, this column isn't about them. This column is about Clarkston ('scuse me, Independence Township) resident Jim DuFresne. He is one of the countless daily reporters not working for a newspaper, who is taking his passion (the outdoors and hiking 500-600 miles a year) and combining it with the entrepreneurial spirit that comes from economic necessity.
He and a handful of associates have started MichiganTrailMaps.com.
Before I blather on, let me tell, you it sounds like a sound business model. But, I digress . . .
Jim, who worked for years as an outdoor writer for Booth Newspapers. His writing has led to authoring or coauthoring countless books on hiking in Michigan, Alaska and even New Zealand. After the Booth gig dried up, he started writing free-lance articles for magazines -- just like tons of other nonworking journalists.
An idea started to trek across the bumpy terrains of his brain . . . "People are getting their information differently today than they did ten years ago," he said.
As more people now hike for health and for fun (it is good for you and it is cheap) and as there was not a definitive place for folks to get good information (free). Ta-da! MichiganTrailMaps.com was born.
To date, there are about 80 trails reviewed, and previewed.
"There are over 1,000 trails we can cover in Michigan, from half-mile hikes to 40 mile hikes," he said. "Michigan is really blessed with wonderful trails."
The site features non-motorized trails -- trials for hikers, bikers, skiers and even horseshoers (is that a word?).
Jim said there were a number basics that had to be a part of the site -- each trail needed an introduction, a little history, something to the character of the trail; directions to the trail (with Googlemaps); and each trail needed a good, usable map.
And, it is all there. All trails "covered" as Jim says, have been visited by a team member. Using GPS coordinates, satellite images and topography maps, they have designed maps that can be printed in color or black and white, and read. They come with points of interest flagged, contour lines and elevation.
Users can find trails by county, by activity or by distance ... or as the home page says, "Looking for a walk in the woods, a weekend backpack or a wilderness adventure in the remote reaches of the Upper Peninsula? Welcome to MichiganTrailMaps.com, the ultimate source on trails in Michigan . . ."
Users can sign up for an e-mail newsletter, which will have a featured trail (complete with color photos and hot links), or read blog entries by Jim on recent treks.
Eventually Jim hopes to bring back print from the internet -- by creating a Michigan-based publishing house. Look for their first offering, Isle Royale National Park: Foot Trails & Water Routes, by early November.
Some of his favorite trails are on Isle Royale and through the Sleep Bear Dunes. He is also quite fond of Independence Oaks County Park and the Wilderness Trail at the Michigan State Parks' Holly Recreational Area.
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Jim and his wife Peggy have lived in Independence Township since 1986; their two children, Jessica and Michael have gone through Clarkston schools. And, though he has trekked the world . . . "I love living in north Oakland County. I love all the lakes, I love being able to drive 30 to 40 minutes and being close to so many county, state and Metro parks."
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For the record, I just signed up for the e-newsletter, Trail Mix.
Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org