Outdoorsy Types Can Benefit From Keeping a Hiking Journal. Here's How ...
You’ve got your pack secured tightly around your hips and a big, nature-yearning grin on your face. There’s plenty of water, snacks and sunblock packed for the miles ahead, and you brought your water filter, just in case. All the stars are aligned for an awesome day on the trail. Adventuring in nature is one of life’s greatest joys …. at least to us here at Rowdy Prebiotics! There’s always one item we have to pack no matter what: keep a hiking journal. Taking a journal on the trail is like having a secret companion to share your observations with. Though with all the hustling and climbing,whipping out your journal may not be your top priority when it comes time to break for water or shade. If you do summon the will to plop down on a rock and write, your brain might feel empty, or the words don’t seem to capture what you see in front of you. For some people, writing is something they avoid like a hungry mother bear. But, no one said you had to be a pro travel writer to document your adventures. A journal is for you and you alone (unless, of course, you plan to blog or write a book. If so, good for you!). You are writing for your future self, the person that will be so grateful you took the time to reflect on your footsteps, and your train of thought, and the steep leg of the hike that nearly had you doubled over--all of it! Journaling on your hike is an expression of gratitude, and while some prefer to meditate at the summit or photograph the journey, journaling is a brilliant, simple way to help you remember your hike and dig a little deeper into the transformative joy this time in nature gives you. Taking a few minutes to journal can improve your overall experience (and help you remember it better too). When you intend to write about your hiking experience, you are more on the lookout for sites and details that are worth writing about. You will have a more detailed account of trail names, weather, feelings, and subtle observations that are easily lost in your memory over time. Trail journaling can also help you enhance your observational skills. You might notice more patterns in nature or in the highs and lows of your physical performance.
How To Keep a Hiking Journal
Prepare Your Mind For WritingWhile you’re packing up or driving to the trailhead, take a few minutes to ask yourself some questions you might want answered during your hike. Asking specific questions will help you form an intention for your hike.
- What are your hoping to get out this hike?
- Have you ever hiked this trail before?
- Do you want to document certain plant types or wildlife?
- Do you want to challenge yourself in any way?
Find a Place to Sit
Whether you choose to squat on a log by a stream or climb up to a sturdy branch for a bird’s eye view, where you sit will influence what you choose to write about. Choose a comfortable place where you can get into a flow state. It’s no fun switching positions every 30 seconds when you’re trying to get your thoughts out.
If words aren’t your thing, try sketching trees, trails, birds, landscapes or even self portraits. You don’t have to be an artist to sketch your surroundings--so take a low-risk challenge and give it a go! Even the simplest sketch will help you tune into details you may have missed by simply relying on your memory. With a little practice, you will see how your sketches improve from your very first stick tree to a free sketch of a bird that you’re genuinely impressed with.
You can also make bulleted lists of your observations so you don’t get caught up in trying to string pretty sentences together. Categorize your lists so you can refer back to them more easily. Maybe you have a list about wildlife you sighted, or a list of times you stopped to use your binoculars. It's up to you!
Use These 10 Journal PromptsThere are no rules with journaling, but staring at a blank page can be intimidating, especially if you’re new to journaling. Get started with a few simple journal prompts:
- The trail has a way of bringing clarity to our daily challenges. What aha! Moments have come to you today?
- There’s beauty in repetition. Do you notice patterns or repetitive strokes in your surroundings (in the trees, in the dirt, in the boulders)? Describe or draw them.
- If you were an animal that lived in this corner of nature, what would you be? How would you spend your mornings? Where would you eat? What would scare you?
- When foraging, it is crucial that you know the subtle differences between poisonous plants and edible ones. Can you identify edible plants? Can you identify poisonous ones?
- Look in front of you. What do you see? What do you smell? What can you hear? Ground yourself in specific details of your surroundings.
- Imagine your friend from the city has never gone hiking before, how would you describe this trail to them?
- Make a list of all the words that come to mind at the trailhead. Then write a new list of words that come to mind as you take in the view at the top of the summit. Compare your lists and journal about what’s changed, and what has stayed the same.
- How are you dressed for your adventure today? What factors have influenced this? Are you breaking in new hiking boots? Are you wearing a new bucket hat? Are you expecting rain?
- Imagine this trail was tragically burned down by a wildfire. What would you want to remember about this place? Write a love letter of sorts this place and draw or write as many details as possible about your view.
- If you are backpacking overnight, write about your campsite. Where have you set up your tent? Where do you prepare your meals. When you unzip your tent in the morning, what do you see? What constellations are above you at night?