About Tom Stienstra
As a full-time outdoors writer for 25 years, Tom Stienstra has made it his life's work to explore the Bay Area and beyond -- hiking, biking, fishing, boating and wildlife watching -- searching for the best of the outdoors and writing about it. In 2005, he was selected as Alumnus of the Year, liberal arts division, San Jose State University and delivered the graduation convocation.
Tom Stienstra is the outdoors columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, where his column appears on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, on the internet at www.SFGate.com, and in newspapers around the country when distributed by the New York Times News Service.
Tom Stienstra has twice named National Outdoor Writer of the Year, "President's Award, Best of the Best," newspaper division, by the Outdoors Writers Association of America. He is the only outdoors writer in America to win first place in OWAA's excellence in craft competition for nine straight years. He has won California Outdoor Writer of the Year four times. He has been awarded roughly 100 writing prizes, including national awards from Associated Press, United Press International and Associated Press Sports Editors.
His column, "Coping with death of a loved one," was chosen as one of the 20 best stories about dogs in the 20th century and reprinted in the book, "Old Dogs Remembered." Other stories selected for the book include features by James Thurber, T.S. Eliot, John Updike, William Wadsworth and others. A series about fishing for great white sharks was selected was one of the best features in the 20th century about San Francisco, and selected for reprint in the book, "Travelers' Tales of San Francisco."
Tom is the host of ";Great Outdoors With Tom Stienstra," which was introduced to the Bay Area market on Sunday evenings in 2005 on UPN-KBHK/44 and Cable 12. Ratings were documented in consecutive weeks of 1.5 to 1.7 in the May sweeps, approaching that of the Sunday night CBS-Evening News (1.8). After that, the show also appears on Sunday a broadcast slot on CBS-5/KPIX-San Francisco, and offered for sale to markets in Sacramento and elsewhere. It now appears at 6:30 p.m. Sundays and 10:30 p.m. Saturdays on UPN-KBHK/San Francisco and 3 p.m. Sundays on CBS-5/San Francisco. He is a monthly guest on segments with CBS-5 Evening Magazine, and has more than 20 appearances on "Bay Area Backroads."
Tom writes, records and produces the radio feature, "Great Outdoors," which appears on KCBS-74/San Francisco, Northern California's No. 1-rated radio station. In 2005, he won first and second place in the nation for best radio show, boating and water sports, from OWAA, and second place for best fishing show, OWAA. The show is featured at 7:35 a.m., 9:35 a.m. and 12:35 p.m. on Saturdays.
Tom is the nation's top-selling author of outdoor guidebooks with more than 1 million units sold. His books are available at a discount from this website. His books include two No. 1 bestsellers: California Camping was awarded No. 1 Bestseller in the world, Category Parks & Campgrounds, by Amazon.Com, as well as No. 2 Bestseller in America, all outdoors books, Outdoor Retailer Magazine; Pacific Northwest Camping was named No. 1 Bestseller, Portland Oregonian, and No. 1 Bestseller, Pacific Pipeline.
Current titles in print include:
California Hiking (with Ann Marie Brown)
Tom Stienstra's Bay Area Recreation
California Recreational Lakes and Rivers
Pacific Northwest Camping
Northern California Cabins & Cottages (with Stephani Stienstra)
Epic Trips of the West
Sunshine Jobs, Career Opportunities Working Outdoors
Contributor: Colorado Camping, Selling the Outdoor Story and five other books.
Tom Stienstra has made it his life work to explore the West -- hiking, camping, fishing and boating -- searching for the best of the great outdoors and writing about it. He has explored all 58 counties of California, in addition to most of Washington and Oregon from the Cascades on west. As a pilot and airplane owner, he can cover anywhere in a radius from Vancouver, Canada, to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to Van Nuys, California in four hours. In the process, he sees the landscape from a unique perspective, inspiring many future trips on the ground to seek out little-known spots.
His travels include hiking 25,000 miles, visiting hundreds of lakes, boating much of the California Coast, and hiking out most of the major rivers, streams and many of their tributaries and waterfalls. His scope of adventure spans from the Costa Rican jungle to the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories.
His contracted expeditions include:
Tom Stienstra's Top Catches
Seven-gill shark, (wire line) 178 pounds
Sailfish, (14-pound test line), 160 pounds
Sturgeon, (20-pound line) 148 pounds
Tarpon, (14-pound line) 125 pounds
Halibut, (30-pound line) 98 pounds
Dorado, (20-pound line) 60 pounds
Mackinaw trout, (8-pound line) 42 pounds
King salmon, (20-pound line) 32 pounds
Striped bass, (14-pound line) 26 pounds
Yellowtail, (20-pound line) 37 pounds
Steelhead, (6-pound line) 16 pounds
Atlantic bonito, (14-pound line) 15 pounds*
Silver salmon, (fly rod, 8-pound tippet) 12 pounds
Rainbow trout, (fly rod, 6-pound tippet) 11 pounds
Largemouth bass, (8-pound line) 8 pounds
Brown trout, (4-pound line) 6 pounds
Arctic grayling, (4-pound line) 3.5 pounds
Cutthroat trout, (6-pound line), 3.5 pounds
*Non-registered world record
After first meeting in 1974 on the staff of the San Jose State Spartan Daily, Tom Stienstra and Stephani Cruickshank re-met through an outdoors story, and were married at Lake Tahoe in December of 1998. They have two boys, Jeremy 17, and Kristopher, 14. They live on a ranch in Northern California.
Interview with Tom Stienstra
QUESTION: Where are you from? How -- if at all -- has your sense of place colored your writing?
T.S.: I'm from Northern California, and after having traveled throughout
most of North America, I'm convinced that Northern California is the closest
thing to heaven. I really love this place. A lot of people would like to
know what heaven looks like, I've always said, but they aren't real willing
to make the trip. It has had a profound influence on my writing in several
ways, most provocatively, it has made me feel that anything is possible,
that greatness can be found in every day, and I try to find it in the moment
-- and connect the moments together. I wish I could take everybody for
a ride in my airplane, and I would show them a land that knows no limits,
thousands of secret little spots that so few know exist that are so exciting
QUESTION: When and why did you begin writing? When did you first consider yourself a writer?
T.S.: One day in the second grade, all us little munchkins were asked
to write a story about something that had happened at home. I ended up
scrawling the story about my dog, Sport, and how much I loved him, but
how he ran away from home, and how much I missed him -- and then how he
suddenly came back to me. Without me knowing it, the teacher took the story
to the local newspaper, and they printed it with a by-line. For an 8-year-old,
it was an astonishing rush.
QUESTION: Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way? What books have most influenced your life?
T.S.: I've always felt there are defining moments in every person's
life, and for myself, I have always tried to explain them to myself, to
make reason out of them, and often write about them. When I was 21, making
$5 to $10 per story as a stringer for several newspapers and United Press
International, I had to work at a gas station to make some money to pay
my way through college, and a robber hit me in the head with the blunt
end of a hatchet, split my head open, then robbed the station. I've tried
making sense of the experience for 20 years, and how it changed me.
QUESTION: What music, if any, most inspires you to write? What do you like to listen to while writing?
T.S.: When it comes to music, there's two sides to me, and they aren't
QUESTION: What are you reading now? What CD is currently in your stereo?
T.S.: Last night, I just started "Dead Man's Walk" by Larry McMurtry,
given to me by my buddy and author Dave Zimmer, and today the book already
affected my writing during a couple of 1,000-word columns, so much so that
I may have to put "Dead Man's Walk" aside until I finish the current book,
because I don't want my own voice muted or shadowed by anything.
QUESTION: What are you working on?
T.S.: I've been in an exceptional creative mode for the past few months,
which caps a two-year process where I have explored all 58 counties of
California, plus a large part of Oregon and Washington, roughly from the
Cascades on west. I try to write 2,000 to 2,500 words a day, usually starting
at 8 a.m., and by 1:30 p.m. or so, I'm done. Then I head out for an adventure,
often flying, hiking, fishing or boating, and when my wife Stephani and
my kids, Jeremy and Kris come, it's like a day of perfection for me.
Except for "Sunshine Jobs," each one is being published fresh. I believe
they will be the most accurate, complete and necessary guidebooks ever
published -- we have spared nothing, even the smallest details, and incorporated
suggestions from readers. The entire process has been
completed with an intent to detail, to produce a book that no
other can stand next to, shoulder to shoulder. The early sales have confirmed
to me that it is always worth it to cut no corners, take no shortcuts,
and do whatever possible to achieve excellence. In fact, I've got a plaque
sitting here that Amazon sent me for having a No. 1 bestseller in its category,
"California Camping." It's the second time I've had a No. 1, the other was
with "Pacific Northwest Camping" on the Portland Oregonian's list. My research
editor not only checks all the phone numbers, but faxes each galley
page I've finished out to hundreds of rangers and fieldscouts for a third
check. This is expensive, but it pays off because the public can have confidence
in the book, and word gets around that, hey, these are books that you can
count on. Other authors and publishers cannot afford this amount of revision
work, because their sales don't merit the investment. There's no way around
how much it costs to do the work right. Because our sales are high, I don't
mind paying the price to make each book the best possible, bar none.
QUESTION: What is your motto?
T.S.: Life ain't no dress rehearsal!
© 1999-2004 Tom Stienstra