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Clarkson University Professor Offers Different View Of Land Down Under With New Book hiking Tropical Australia

[JPEG photographs of Hinchman in Australia for newspaper use are available at and]

Next year, the eyes of the world will focus on Australia and the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney.  Many Americans and Canadians will be making the trip primarily to see the beauty of athletic competition.  But, Clarkson University Liberal Arts Professor Lew Hinchman of Canton hopes tourists will make a detour before, during, or after the Games to see another kind of beauty—the natural beauty of the continent.hinchman

Hinchman should know.  He and his family hiked and explored the rainforests, trails, mountains and waterfalls within the national parks of eastern Australia during his 1996-97 sabbatical.  Those experiences became the basis of his first book, Hiking Tropical Australia: Queensland and Northern New South Wales (ISBN 0-9648056-1-8, Paperback, 223 pages, Grass Tree Press, $15.95).

The timing of the book’s release —a year before the Sydney Olympics— was not coincidental, according to Hinchman.

“When I got the idea to write this hiking guide, I knew that the Olympics would be held in Sydney,” Hinchman said.  “So it was definitely in the back of my mind that if I could hustle and get the book out and on the bookshelves by now, then that would help sales, because a lot of Americans are planning to go over to Sydney to see the Olympics and they may decide to see more of the country.  They may think, ‘tropical Australia’ and buy the book.”

Calling upon his experiences down under, Hinchman’s book is a guide for those with a sense of adventure and a yearning to explore new places.

“I love Australia.  I love the people there, I love the country,” Hinchman said.  “And this book is a testament to that. It’s trying to get Americans out of their cars and out of Sydney, and get them out to see Australia as it was before 1788, before the English colonists and the convicts arrived.

“You know, in America, wilderness has been reduced to a few tiny ‘islands’: Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier National Park and a few places like that.  But in large parts of Australia, there’s nothing but wilderness, especially once you get into the outback.”

Besides introducing readers to the natural wonders of Australia, Hiking Tropical Australia provides valuable information on how to plan for an overseas trip, how to get there, where to stay, what to carry, and hazards and nuisances to look out for while out and about.

Hinchman’s love of the Land Down Under dates back to 1996, when he was there on sabbatical, examining how indigenous people were affected by being brought under the law and government of European countries, as well as environmental political theory and the aboriginal land rights movement.  When not conducting research, he would go hiking with his wife, Sandy, a St. Lawrence University professor, and their son, Bryce.

“Almost every weekend, we would go camping in one of the national parks,” said Hinchman, who has also hiked the islands of the Caribbean, Mexico, Belize and the American southwest.  “Then when we had school vacations, we could go further.  We would do vacations of three or four days and do some fairly long overnight trips.  Over time, if you do this every weekend, you really accumulate a lot of experience.  Everywhere we went, we would take notes on the trails, and we bought maps and hiking guides, and we gradually acquired a huge pool of knowledge.  And that’s what this book grew out of.”

Sandy was supportive of his efforts (in fact, her support even went so far as drawing the maps that are featured throughout the book).  It helped that she had written a hiking book of her own (Hiking the Southwest’s Canyon Country, 1991, Mountaineers Books) and knew what it involved, writing notwithstanding.  “She helped me to recollect exactly what we had seen on the trails and to be clear on distances from point A to point B,” he said.  He also credits his Liberal Arts colleague John Serio, editor of the Wallace Stevens Journal, for editing and desktop publishing the book as well as promoting it. Both Serio and Hinchman created Grass Tree Press, in part, to write and publish the book.

Although putting a book of this magnitude together was harder work than expected, for Hinchman, it is means to a satisfying end.

“There’s a huge sense of accomplishment,” he said.  “From going out and walking the trails to seeing a finished product —and seeing it through the various stages and getting to this point— is very rewarding.

By writing the book, Hinchman wants Americans to broaden their view of Australia beyond Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

“Here’s a country that’s as large as the continental United States,” he said.  “It has a population of 18 million, which is roughly the same as metropolitan New York City, and they’re spread out over this immense country.  And that means that enormous stretches of Australia are virtually unchanged.”

He points to one of his favorite places in Australia, Lamington National Park as an example.  Located on the Queensland/New South Wales border, a pair of trails takes hikers on a gradual ascent along rivers and creeks all the way up to the divide that separates the two states.  The beauty of the area, he said, is walking through rainforests that have been virtually untouched.

“It has never been cut over, never been logged.  It’s virgin rainforest,” said Hinchman.  “And there are literally hundreds and hundreds of waterfalls, some of them a few feet of cascades tumbling over, and in some cases, the waterfalls are hundreds of feet high.  One of them (Elabana Falls) is pictured on the cover.

“If you were going to go to Australia, and you called me and said, ‘Lew, I only have five days.  Where should I go?’ I’d say, go to Lamington, stay there, hike some of the trails, hike a couple of the waterfall circuits, and you will have a wonderful time.”

Americans going overseas will be awed by the athletic competition at Sydney.  Lew Hinchman hopes they’ll stick around.

“I think if Americans go to Sydney and see the Olympics, and take this book and go out and see what Australia really was, I think it’ll be a transformative experience.”
Anyone wishing to purchase a copy can contact Grass Tree Press, PO Box 211, Potsdam, NY, 13676, by e-mail at, or by calling Hinchman directly at 315-268-3985.

PHOTO CAPTION 1: []: Lew Hinchman relaxes at a campground at Ellis Beach in Far North Queensland (photo by Sandra Hinchman).

PHOTO CAPTION 2: []: Lew Hinchman (right) and his son, Bryce, on a trip to the Great Barrier Reef that departed from Cape Tribulation Beach  (photo by Sandra Hinchman).

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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