People hike for many different reasons. Maybe you hike to get a tan, or maybe you hike because you love being in nature. For most hikers, there are multiple reasons to go explore the trail on any given day. Some days I hike to spend time with friends and get some exercise, and other days I hike to break free from my own mind.
Looking back, the hikes that I remember best and enjoyed most were on trails that I journaled on. Though taking a notebook and pen in your pack might seem frivolous or unexciting, trail journalling can transform your hiking experience, for any reason you are on the trail.
The most compelling reason to trail journal is the wholeness it creates. While you might tend to hike for fitness or to clear your mind, taking a few moments to set intention and focus helps connect your physical experience and mental/emotional state with your surroundings. Suddenly, you notice details that you would have passed by before. You find yourself tuned in to the natural world around you, and can move forward with a clear mind.
The beeping microwave and construction site down the street, the way your hair looks today and how many minutes until the next event- whatever daily things tug away at your hardest attempts to focus- begin to loosen their grip and fade away. Journaling is a way to guide yourself and make sure that this time is beneficial to you. It allows you an outlet and a record that can be accessed again later.
Though you can follow whatever pattern or guided journal you would like for journaling on the trail, here is a general guideline to help you begin writing on hikes.
Before the Hike
Gather the notebook or journal you would like to use and a pen.
Make a heading for the hike. Here you might want to put the trail name or the date. If you want the more detailed information about the trail itself to look back on later, like mileage and location, make headings for these items at the top.
Take a moment to set an intention for your hike. What do you want to do or see? What do you want to accomplish through this hike? Here are a few ideas for what could fit in this section:
- To keep a steady pace for every mile of the hike.
- To walk away with a clearer mind.
- To understand the area and terrain better.
- To keep a positive attitude and stay engaged through the hike.
- To see a place or thing in a way I never have before.
On the Trail
With this intention in mind, begin your hike. If you have any moments or notes to add, pull out your journal and make a few short notes. Even if the notes are incomplete for the moment but you understand them enough to complete them later, take the time to jot them down before blazing onward.
Stop at one point, either decided before or during the hike, to spend time journaling. Personally, I like this point to be about halfway or further into the trail, giving myself time to think and experience and become a little bit tired. Here, write down what the hike has been like so far. Write down what is around you, and springboard into writing about your intention.
Begin with your surroundings, like the scents and textures, colors and sounds. Then move on to yourself. How are you physically? How does this place make you feel? Next, move to the intentions and goals your set pre-hike.
For example, if your goal was to keep a steady pace, how is it going? Is it becoming harder as you go? Can you think of any actions or mindsets that have helped you or held you back? What can you do to improve? If your intention was to clear your mind, write down things that are cluttering your mind. Write about why these things are bothering you, and how you can practice allowing yourself to let them go for the time being.
Finishing the Entry
Finally, after your hike, write a short report. Consider how it went, and if you met your intention or goal. Think through what went well, and what you can improve next time. Finally, and arguably most importantly, write about how you can take the time you had and things you learned back into daily life. It could be as simple as remembering to take time to clear your mind at work, or to make healthier choices through the day.
Trail journaling can change the way you hike and can have positive ripple-effects across your life off the trail. Whether you are a writer by nature or not, or if you follow this plan or create your own, I hope you give trail journaling a try and find yourself enjoying and benefitting from your hikes more than ever.
Enjoy your writing!