Hurricane King hit South Florida in the fall of 1950. Paul McHugh blew into town then, too. His father piled limestone boulders into an old Army jeep to keep it from being blown off the road, before he drove McHugh’s mother – already in labor – to the hospital.
McHugh grew up in the Everglades, the Florida Keys and the Bahamas, fostering a deep love for nature and vigorous outdoor sports. At age 13, he entered a Roman Catholic seminary to study for the priesthood. He left at age 19 to complete a secular education at FSU in Tallahassee. He graduated with a summa cum laude degree in English, with an emphasis on poetry (and a minor in psychology) from FSU in 1972.
He rambled by motorcycle across the U.S., looking for the place he wanted to live. It turned out to be Northern California. McHugh supported himself by a variety of jobs – including fair barker, archery instructor, catering truck driver, masseur and union carpenter – while writing his first novel, “The Search for Goodbye to Rains” (published by Island Press in 1980).
McHugh moved up to the thriving artist’s colony of Mendocino, where he launched a career as a freelance writer and video producer, focusing on topics like resource use, environmental issues, and outdoor sport. Meanwhile, he expanded his resume’ of activities, adding rock climbing, ski mountaineering, bow hunting, mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, sea kayak racing and surfing to the activities he had enjoyed growing up in Florida – fishing, hiking, sailing and skin diving.
In 1985, he was hired to be co-editor and main feature writer for the Outdoors section of The San Francisco Chronicle, a post he held until 2007.
During that period, McHugh also published a non-fiction book, “Wild Places,” with Foghorn Books.