Hiking is a great way to escape the rat race, get out in nature and leave the stress of the world behind. Alas, your hiking experiences can fade with time. The best way to prevent this is to keep a hiking journal.
Take a minute to give some consideration to your most recent hiking experience. What sticks out in your mind? Who did you go with and were there any incredible views? Now think about the first time you ever went hiking. Undoubtedly, you remember few things about the geography, the particular hiking route you took, or any unique features you saw along the way. The experiences you have forgotten are lost to time. If you keep a hiking journal, you will be able to better remember these experiences as the years pass.
A good hiking journal combines a number of characteristics. First, it should be compact so you don’t have to lug extra weight around. Second, it should have a cover or case to protect it from the elements (zip lock baggies work well). Third, the journal should contain blank areas to write your notes. Finally, the journal may contain cue spaces to remind you to keep notes on specific things. Cues might include:
- Name of trail, distance, date hiked, and general physical description and difficulty rating
- Interesting things that you saw on the hike (plants, wildlife, historical features, etc.); some hikers like to visit a favorite trail at different times of year to see variations in plants and wildlife which can be noted in the journal
- Who you went hiking with or who you met on the trail and contact information for them
- The weather conditions
- Any unique things that occurred while hiking
- The route you took on the hike and alternatives you might want to try later
- Unique information about the particular hiking trail, such as an interesting geologic feature
- Any inside information provided by locals or other hikers you met, such as recommendations for other hikes
- A poem or creative free-write about the experience
- A drawing, sketch, or photo of something you saw on the hike, or a small specimen of a leaf or flower
- Something that you learned while on the hike
- Personal thoughts or remarks about the experience of hiking; how a particular wilderness experience affects you spiritually or emotionally
At the end of the hike, you should be able to get the following from your journal enough detail to provide you or a friend with a guide if you or they hike the location a second time and some pleasant memories to reflect upon later as you read back through your journal.
To get the most out of your hiking journal, you should write in it just before you start, during breaks such as lunch and when you return. It is always interesting to see the different impressions you have before and after a hike as well as your mood changes as the hike progresses. On a miserably rainy day in winter, the journal will make for good reading.
Hiking is a great way to commune with nature and spend a weekend. Make sure to preserve the experience with your hiking journal.