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[at-l] FW: Thru-hike Memories - Prehike planning. (Part 1)

Thru-hike Memories

Over the last few years I've put together a number of websites,
including two online journals. Through that effort I've picked up a few
tips.  They may be of use to you if you're planning on publishing your
experience for either home or for the public.

Through this series we'll explore a variety of topics from planning your
journal all the way through to developing a website to display it. We'll
look at photography from the use once to the latest digital cameras,
computers for recording your thoughts, computers for editing your
journals, software for creating and editing your journals, software for
editing photographs. We'll explore the different options in electronic
communication including email, developing your own website, developing
your own domain or using one of the established sites (such as
Trailplace) to host your site.

Whither your plans are to create as book recording your adventure for
friends or family, or creating an expansive website, this series should
help in sorting through the many options your faced with.

Start Your Journal Plan Early

Your average thru-hiker takes 6 months to plan and prepare for a
thru-hike. Many people spend a year or more sorting through a seeming
infinite number of details. What pack? What boots? How do I sleep?
Should I use food drops or buy my food locally? And on and on it goes.
No wander there is little time left to planning how to document the

Yet when you think about it, after the planning and a few months of
hiking, all to soon it's over. Just stand on top Katahadin and watch to
the hikers kiss the sign and lament that they can't believe their done.
Then you're left with the rest of your life and the memories. 

What you have left is a few hundred dollar's worth of warn out gear, a
lot of new friends and a lifetime of memories. The process of shaping
those memories starts before the first foot of trail is hiked.

Most of us head out on our hike with a pad of paper and a camera. We
catch a moment here or there to write a comment or two. Stand on a
mountain top and snap a couple expansive shots then move on. We get home
review our collection of memorabilia and swear that next time we'll go
slower and stop to smell the roses.

Over time those vivid memories begin to fade.  This is despite the fact
that this is one of the most intense periods of our lives. I don't know
of any other 5 month period of time in my life when I can remember 5% of
what I remember of our AT journey. Twenty years later, I can't go back
and fill in the blanks. Fortunately for me, my wife was a better
journalist than myself. Still there's much wished I'd written.  By the
time I finished, I was beginning to get the message.

Photographs are often used to fill in the holes of journals. However
it's hard to convey the feelings of the highs and lows of the trail in a
photo. Even then photo's need to be documented. If not on the trail then
soon after.

Know Your Audience

First off there's no right or wrong way to chronicle your hike. However,
if you tend to write a few terse comments for yourself, they may be of
little or no interest to other hikers or world at large. As a result you
need to attempt to identify ahead of time who our target audience is. 

Typically we write journals first for ourselves, second for close
friends and family, third for members of the trail community, forth for
the general public at large and finally as part of our legacy to the
generations that follow. The level of detail we include depends to a
large extent on who, if anyone, we expect to read it. Certainly the less
familiar the reader is to the subject the more information is required
to fill in the picture generated by your words. Also different readers
will be interested in different aspects of the hike. The new thru-hiker
hopeful maybe more information in what gear you carried or how you
handled food drops. It is very relevant to their future plans. 

Many negative comments were made concerning the recent "Walk in the
Woods" book on the AT. This criticism came primarily from the thru-hiker
community as not fairly representing a thru-hike. Despite the criticism,
it was quite popular with other readers. Clearly the author understood
his audience (not thru-hikers). Personally, I found it humorous and
quite enlightening. Then I wasn't looking for another tutorial on

Understand the Media

No, I'm not talking about newspapers or TV crews. Rather, I refer to the
media you'll use to communicate your experience. Until recently the
average thru-hiker had few options. Typically you could do slide show,
maybe write and article or with a lot of luck, interest someone in
publishing a book. When we completed the trail in '77, we quickly
gathered our photos and proceeded to give a number of slide shows in the
6 weeks before we moved to Oregon. Then thru-hikers were few and far
between. So we had the luxury of having an attentive audience despite or
inadequate skills. Today, the demands are higher if you want to stand
out from the crowd.

On the flip side, today the options to publish in a variety of media are
wide open. Computers, the web, low cost Read/Write CDROM's and other
technologies give today's authors a wide range of options for
distributing their work. Computers allow you the ability to self publish
a book of your journey then easily and quickly reformat it into a web

With the arrival of good computer software, we finally had the ability
to computerize our journals. Initially we formatted them into book form.
We published them and distributed them to our family and friends who
helped us on our hike. Once in the computer, it was quite easy to
reformat it for presentation on the web. That was before word processors
automatically formatted documents for the web. Then everything was hand
coded in html.  Still with a few days work, we able to put together
reasonable website. 

With a little more work you can put your writings and photos on a CDROM
for easy distribution. For those truly committed, products like
MicroMedia's Shockwave allow you to create fully dynamic presentations
completely integrated with voice or musical accompaniment. 

This range of options comes with a price. Not the least of which is the
cost of hardware or software. Other cost includes the learning curve
associated with the tools.

There are two sets of tools you need to understand. First are the
instruments you'll use to record your adventure during the hike. These
include different types of cameras and film. Today there are a myriad
implements available for writing,  raging from notebooks to hand held
computers. Back at home, you or the person formatting your journal, has
a different set of tools to content with. Including computers, scanners,
and a wide variety of software, from photo editors to word processors to
HTML editors, 

Good planning requires a basic understanding of these tool before you
leave for the trail. Choosing the wrong tools in advance, can in the
least, make it more costly to convert your work from one medium to
another. In the worst case it could be impossible.

Take the case of photographs. Digital camera's make it easy to create
quick photo's for display on web pages. However, if at some point you
decide you want to create slide shows or publish your work, you'll find
the quality doesn't meet the standards of those media. On the other hand
if you take nothing but slides, you'll find that converting slides to
digital images adds considerably to the cost and time. 

All is Not Lost!

By now, many of you are about ready to grab that disposable camera and
notepad at the drug store and head for the hills. Don't despair. There
are still many ways to communicate your journey without becoming a total
techno geek.  However, before we get there, we've got a few more
technical  issues to cover.

In Part 2 we'll cover some of the tools used during the hike. These
include the pros and cons of different type of cameras. Plus the ever
popular discuss of to carry or not carry a computer. And if you do, what
kind. No, I won't get into the topic of cell phones. Even I have my

Ron Moak "Fallingwater"
Ronm@fallingwater.com <mailto:Ronm@fallingwater.com> 

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