[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [at-l] journals - (was thru-hikering attitude)

Sly - you have some good points, especially about keeping a journal for
the public.  I knew several people whose promise to publish a journal
became an onerous chore - rather than the pleasure that journal writing
is for me.  Someone who has never kept a journal may have a really hard
time doing it, especially when they are tired and sore and can't think
about anything besides "What's for dinner?"

I am and have always been a journal keeper - an erratic one, but I have
journals dating back 25 years, from the first time I left home to live
abroad.  In my "normal" life, journals allow me to think out loud,
express emotions that I may not be comfortable talking about (or have
talked to death already), rant and rave or express joy - whatever is
happening to me emotionally that I want to express. I don't do it for
posterity, but it is a way of getting my head straight.  

On the trail, the journals do that, but they also allow me to remember
details that can get lost in the day to day experience.  Like photos, I
can read back and say, "Oh, yes, I remember that." to a lot of things
that weren't vivid enough in retrospect to remember clearly, but that I
enjoy recalling when I reread them later.  I started writing my journals
as letters home - starting the first time I left home at 16  - giving
all the news, plus details about my life to people who loved me, but
really had no clue as to what I was going through.  Then I started
keeping separate emotional journals and travel letter/journals. After I
returned from my first thruhike, I typed up my letters, adding details
that weren't in the letters. Sometimes what you remember at the end of
the day, and what you remember a month or a year later, are quite
different. Some of my memories are very vivid - but a lot get lost in
the years and the miles since then.

The journal/letters serve several purposes - because I write for people
who don't know what the trail (or other travel) is like, I try to
describe where I am so that they can see it, and explain what life is
like. I do it for them, but then years later, I can read the
descriptions and see so clearly where I was and what I did. Because they
care, I try to explain how I feel about what I am seeing and doing. 
Because I don't want them to worry too much, I try to find the brighter
side of what is happening, which helps me to do likewise, though I also
try to stay honest to what is happening. My knee problems came through,
loud and clear.  Although I would not do an on-line journal, my letter
journals are similar in that there were some things that didn't get
written about - but not much.  (Some things you may not want Mom to know

You are right, that spending too much time examining your life can keep
you from living it, but I found plenty of time on the trail to do both.
I generally started my days early, and finished hiking by 3 - 4:00 -
there was more than enough time to write, to talk, to explore (if I had
the energy to do so), and even to read something besides the guidebook
when the days got longer. I found that my best journal entries were when
I would sit under a tree or at a view in the middle of the day, eating a
snack and writing. The rest, the writing, and the noshing were all part
of the pleasure. I can sit and look at the view every few minutes, enjoy
being where I am, and still write how I feel without losing the
enjoyment of the moment.  Then again, when I was hiking, I would
sometimes think about what I wanted to put in my journal that night -
the yellow warbler or the beautiful sunrise that I might not otherwise
remember later on. Thinking about what happened during the day that
would be worth writing about sometimes made me more aware of what was
happening around me, rather than otherwise.  (Like when Jim and I do a
key exchange when hiking a section of a linear trail, I will save up
things to tell him when we meet. "Did you see this? Did you notice

On the CDT, we won't have the short days, but I plan to take time during
the day to write so that I won't lose the details - and again, so that
my family can be there with us, even if at second hand.

On the trail, for me each day was different - and there was always
something to write about - 

I guess what I'm saying is, I see your points, but my experience is


Slyinmd@aol.com wrote:
> I just happened to discover the AT and thru-hiking and never thought about a
> journal, I never kept one in my life, why would I start.  During my planning
> stages I found Trailplace still in construction.  Wingfoot had an idea of
> sponsoring '97 journals for the 50th anniversary of the AT.  I thought it was
> a great idea to keep my sister, nieces and friends informed of my progress.  I
> contacted WF and agreed to do an online journal.   But shortly after my start
> (300 miles) something happened, writing was taking too much time from my trail
> experience and I happened to be in constant pain, writing about it wasn't
> going to solve my problem and I didn't want to bore the masses or worry my
> family.  I had to get my head on straight and that was by living the trail,
> not writing about it for prosperity.  My memories serve me well.
> I envy the person that can put out a good journal, weather online or not, but
> in all honesty, I think they are missing something.  In their daily
> reflections, they may lose the moment.
> A thru-hike can be an exceedingly long time, but any minutes self reflecting
> and holing yourself up in the corner of a shelter writing, appears contrary to
> me.  I was amazed at the number of hikers cozy in their sleeping bags,
> writing.
> I know this is a weird post, but my feelings are, any minutes that you have
> living on the trail should be just that, the future memories will always be
> there.
> Check out the sourounding area, collect fire wood, find rocks, watch ants,
> inch worms, birds, animals, explore!
> Way over my normal, limited post,  Sly
* From the Appalachian Trail Mailing List |  http://www.backcountry.net  *