Posted July 9, 2007
He has hiked thousands of miles in Idaho and western United States wilderness areas, among the books he’s co-written is one of the most-used Idaho hiking guides, and his blog on conservation issues, http://wolves.wordpress.com, gets some 2,000 hits a day. He’s also one of the original founders and a former president of the now 13,000-member Greater Yellowstone Coalition.
And now, Ralph Maughan, PhD, who describes himself as a political scientist with an interest in conservation politics, is retiring from Idaho State University after a 36-year career. Maughan is probably best known to hiking enthusiasts for the three hiking guides he has written or co-authored: “Hiking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness Areas,” co-authored with Lee Mercer; “Beyond the Tetons: A Backpacking Guide to Wyoming’s Teton Wilderness,” now out of print; and “Hiking Idaho,” second edition, formerly “The Hiker’s Guide to Idaho,” co-authored by Maughan’s wife, Jackie Johnson Maughan.
“The hiking books I’ve collaborated on are hiking guides with a conservation orientation,” said Maughan. “They are not just ‘where to go’ and ‘how to do it’ guides, but they give some thought to the conservation of the areas described.”
“Hiking Idaho” has sold more than 25,000 copies and has been updated several times. It describes more than 100 hikes in Idaho, some that have changed from one edition to the next. “For ‘Hiking Idaho’ we did four editions of it covering 2,000 miles of trail,” Maughan said. “For the last edition we re-hiked every trail and afterwards I had to have surgery on my Achilles tendon.”
Of the all the hiking he has done and areas he has explored, Maughan said he is most fond of a relatively “local” mountain range.
“The mountain range I like best is the Lemhi Range,” Maughan said. “As I’ve gotten older I like to go cross country more and the Lemhi’s lend themselves to that. Recently I spent two days walking through the open spaces of the Lemhi’s and I came across two fantastic natural arches that no one has talked about.”
When researching the 1,500 miles of trails covered in the “Hiking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness Areas,” Maughan hiked about 900 miles and his co-author Mercer hiked about 600. This guide isn’t about the Teton Mountains near Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Driggs, Idaho, but covers an area southeast of Yellowstone National Park.
<>“I’ve slept hundreds of night in grizzly bear country, but it wasn’t until I met Lee Mercer that I found someone who would go with me on a regular basis,” noted Maughan, who has interesting stories about encounters with bears, but says hypothermia, stream crossings, lightning strikes and falling trees are all much more dangerous than bears.
But just hiking and admiring the countryside isn’t enough for Maughan. “I feel indolent if I’m just outdoors having a good time,” Maughan said. “I feel like I should be taking pictures and documenting something to tell land managers or the public when something is in good shape or bad.”
Maughan has been an active conservationist, founding the Wolf Recovery Foundation (WRF) in 1986, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration of wolves in the Rocky Mountains. He created the Web site www.forwolves.org/ralph/ about 10 years ago. That site has now morphed in the Internet blog http://wolves.wordpress.com/. These sites have been popular and informative to a broad audience. He continues as the president of the WRF.
“I’ve tried to provide accurate information that debunk the kind of rumors that go around on both the anti- and pro-wolf sides of the wolf reintroduction issue,” Maughan said. “My blog has grown to include information on and discussions of a wide range of conservation issues in the greater Yellowstone and northern Rocky Mountain regions. I’ve tried to put some of the science out there rather than some of the cultural mythology prevalent in some parts of the West regarding some of these animals and issues.”
Maughan has been involved with a variety of other conservation groups and issues and is on the board of directors of the Western Watershed Project.
Although he is perhaps best known for his hiking books and blogs, teaching at ISU in the political science department has been the mainstay of Maughan’s work life for more than three and one-half decades. Born and raised in Logan, Utah, he earned his B.A. degree in political science from Utah State University in 1967 and went on to earn his master’s and doctoral degrees in political science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He began at ISU in 1971. Most of his academic publications were in studies of voting, public opinion, and public policy.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time at Idaho State University,” Maughan said. “I’ve enjoyed all my classes and most of my students. I can only think of one student I positively disliked. The rest of them I really liked or was neutral towards. I’ve certainly been fortunate to have had some of the students I’ve had.”
He also said he enjoyed working with his colleagues. “We really haven’t been a department strife with personal or intellectual conflicts,” Maughan said. “I’ve appreciated the working relationship I’ve had with my colleagues.
Maughan, 62, will continue to operate his blog, hike, update his books and stay active in conservation issues.