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[at-l] Trail Journals - Rememberance or Legacy

In an era of instant communications, it's not unusual or unexpected to
see the increasing number of people take advantage of the forum to
communicate to friends and family. When we first hike the trail in '77
there were far fewer diversions available to the thru-hiker. Journal
writing gave us something to do during non hiking hours and hopefully a
way to better remember the trip in the years to come.

Soon after completing the trail, the journals moved into book boxes
where they basically remained for the next 16 years. Linda  and I
finally decided to pull them out and type them into a computer so we
could print them out for family members. That was the first time I'd had
a chance to read my wife's view of the events.  

With the advent of the Internet we posted them on the web sometime in
1995. Since then we've shared them with thousands of others and numerous
other hikers have followed with their hikes. A few (like us) recounting
their tails of bygone years and most sharing with us their current
adventures as they happen.

In '97 when we decided to return to the AT for and anniversary hike, we
struggled on the best method of documenting our trip. In '77 we used
hard bound notebooks. A tradition I still wanted to continue. However, I
also looked at a number of the small computers. Eventually dismissing
them as too heavy, limited battery life, difficult to write and edit on,
plus a number of other reasons.

We still wanted to provide a mechanism to rapidly communicate our
progress along our hike. We chose to continue writing detailed daily
journal entry's into our hardbound notebooks. Then Linda or I would
write daily summaries that would be posted to the web or pass to this
list during the hike. This method would provide less work for my father
who was acting as our transcriber. 

This method, although cumbersome, worked reasonably well in the South.
This was due to the lack of other hikers and distractions along the
trail. Once we arrived in the North, I found it took a great deal of
will power to break away from conversations to go off and write in the
journal. Shortly after Linda left the trail with knee problems, any
attempt to keep a single, let alone a dual journal, were quickly
abandoned. From then on I lived in the moment of the trail. 

Upon returning home from the trail. I did endeavor to write length text
on each days adventure. Plus we went back and entered all the
information from our notebooks. As a result we now have a written record
of Linda, Brandon and my hike. Knowing how much our previous journals
had contributed to keeping alive our first hike, I knew it was important
to complete the documentation of this one. 

Years after our '77 hike, my only regret was that I didn't flesh out my
thoughts and feeling early in the hike. After reading other journals, I
realize that it typical of male journalist. "Just the facts mam', just
the facts."

Over the years there's another reason that I believe journals are
important. Most of our everyday lives are spent performing routing
chores.  Our AT hikes are a way to break up that monotony and give us
something to write about. We must remember that the words we write may
be our greatest legacy to the generations that follow us. I look at the
books of genealogy of our family siting on the bookshelves and wander
who these people were. Other than the occasional faded photograph and
terse comment or two on birth dates, marriages and children, there is
little for me to piece together about the character of there lives.

Maybe your trip isn't as monumental as the early settlers on the Oregon
Trail or a soldier spending months in combat. Still it is an important
and for many a defining point in our lives. A moment that we should

So wither your keeping a journal to launch your career as the next great
American writer or are simply documenting one of the greatest moments of
your lives, I'd still recommend keeping a journal. 

Ron "Fallingwater"

http://www.fallingwater.com/at77 <http://www.fallingwater.com/at77> 

PS. If anyone's interested in keeping this thread alive. We can talk
about the techniques of keeping a journal, private .vs. public, print
.vs. web, upcoming changes in technology for the journal writer. 

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