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HIS HAPPY TRAILS EX-REAL ESTATE AGENT LEAVES NO STONE UNTURNED IN BOOKS.

Byline: Bill Becher Special to the Daily News

Robert Stone said if he won the lottery he'd be doing the same job, he'd just stay in nicer hotels while he does it.

Stone's job is writing day-hiking guides. The author of 20 books, Stone spends the warm half of his year exploring the Rockies near his home in Red Lodge, Mont.

``When the snow begins to fly, so do I,'' said Stone, a Santa Monica native. ``I spent 16 winters in Montana, so I've paid my dues.''

Stone then heads for California and Hawaii and hikes and writes some more. On a trip exploring the relatively new Sandstone Hills Trail in the North Ranch Open Space in Thousand Oaks, Stone explains how he went from a real estate agent to author.

He started writing about 10 years ago, when he put together a stapled pamphlet describing a dozen local hikes near where he sold real estate in Montana. Stores wanted the pamphlets, and the same thing happened when he wrote a second hiking guide to Yellowstone National Park.

Yosemite and Sequoia guides followed. Then Stone started writing about day hikes in Southern California. His ``Day Hikes Around Los Angeles'' made a local best-seller list. The fourth edition, out next year, will describe 80 hikes in L.A.

Stone said most people ask, ``80 hikes in Los Angeles?'' They don't believe that there are that many - 80 freeways, maybe.

Stone loves California's variety. The hike we're on follows along a new subdivision and then loops along a ridge with views of jagged rock formations below Simi Peak. Further along we flush some quail, which scurry away. Views of a small, grassy valley open up before we come to the next subdivision.

It's these hidden gems of wilderness close to civilization that excite Stone's passion for hiking in Southern California.

``Every county up the coastline has such a diverse selection of hikes,'' Stone said. ``From stream-fed canyons to cliffs overlooking the ocean and open spaces. It's unbelievable how much access there is to trails.''

Stone is a one-man show. He does all the writing, photography and layout of his books. This means he gets to choose what locations to write about.

``Some people like climbing to the peaks for views, others like the intimate surroundings of a canyon with a stream,'' Stone said.

It takes Stone about three months of seven-day-a-week work to write a book.

Stone does about 200 hikes covering from 600 to 1,000 miles each year, hiking every trail he writes about.

Hikes in his books can vary from an easy one-hour stroll around Rocky Oaks Park on Mulholland Highway to a 10-mile expedition to explore Sulphur Mountain Road near Santa Paula. All, though, are geared to get you out and back the same day. Readers like the concise directions to the trailheads, clear hike descriptions and comprehensive selection of hikes.

Though Stone is proud of his past work, he's also quick to point out he takes enjoyment in revising and expanding his books, applying what he's learned to each new edition.

More of a Jeep than a Lincoln Navigator, the books are simple, no-frills, get-you-there-and-back guides that are small enough to slip into a large pocket or a daypack.

Stone said he doesn't supply difficulty ratings, because one person's easy hike is another person's leg breaker. Instead he supplies the length and amount of climbing on the hike, so readers can make their own assessments of the degree of difficulty based on their own capabilities.

He also avoids lengthy, florid descriptions of what you will see, leaving that for the hiker to discover. Stone does take care to make sure his access and trail descriptions and maps are accurate. Changes are inevitable as trails are rebuilt, which is why he likes to update his books every few years.

So what does Stone do when he's not working, waiting for that winning Lotto ticket? He goes on a hike - not to write about it, just to revisit a favorite trail.

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4 photos

Photo:

(1 -- 4 -- color) Former real estate broker Robert Stone is the author of 20 day-hiking guide books (above). He's written on trails in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara, as well as the Sandstone Hills Trail in Thousand Oaks (pictured).

Bill Becher/Special to the Daily News
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Title Annotation:Review; Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 7, 2002
Words:724
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