Writing the Hike

I write a lot about hiking. If you know me, then you know I talk a lot about hiking, too. The act of meandering, trudging, sauntering, marching, scrambling, or simple walking in nature is like fuel for my mind and rest for my soul. Keeping all of that tucked up in my brain without putting it into words feels frustrating and aimless.

As I enter into the new year, with new hiking goals and plans in place, I want to be sure I begin to incorporate writing into these adventures more fully and consistently. The goals and talents of my youth were, after all, centered around a love of the written word. It’s why I have thousands of books in my home, why my first major academic accomplishment was earning a Bachelor’s degree in English, and why I still participate in NaNo WriMo every November (once again, I did not win this year, for a couple of reasons).

My interests have been many over the past 40 years but I’m moving into a place in life where I am fully embracing the activities that make me come alive. Right now, those include hiking and writing. Maybe some day I’ll write a national bestseller like Cheryl Strayed or a niche memoir like Jennifer Pharr Davis. I still hope that I can tell my story of how the outdoors and the act of moving across the earth on foot has saved me over and over.

So I have to start somewhere.

I’ve decided to start a hiking journal. I hope to record my thoughts and impressions of each hike I do this year in my journal. I also hope to elaborate on the emotions and inspirations that the hikes precipitate within me, as a way to motivate me into more writing as well provide a memoir of these adventures. I received a journal for Christmas this year, and I think it’s just the perfect place to begin putting my hiking ruminations on paper.

I don’t think that any adventure can be purely technical in its unfolding. If that were the case, it would be a task, a job, not an adventure. Even trying to improve my mileage or hike times is done out of a desire to test my mental and physical limits, not the quality of my gear or the accuracy of my maps. Adventure must come from the heart, much in the same way that writing about it must also be done as a means for deeper understanding of self, of the environment, of the people who have traveled these trails before.

Right now, I’m stuck when it comes to what and how to journal. I can certainly record the weather, the length, the elevation gain or loss. But all that is easily found on any trail app. What I want to journal and eventually write about is what each hike tells me, how the path shapes my thoughts, the grand ideas that swirl through my head as I put one foot in front of the other, the goals I make for myself when I’m out there, both hiking-related and otherwise.

There’s a lot of time to get sucked into my own universe when it’s quiet and there’s nothing but the sound of my own footsteps and breathing. Journaling will give me a chance, I hope, to put that universe into words and maybe allow me to create more goals and adventures and digest some of the conversations I have with myself about life, the world, and the path I’m on – literal and figurative.

If you have ideas for a hiking journal, plop them in the comments or send me a message. If you keep a hiking journal already, I’d love to hear what and how you journal.

Happy hiking, happy writing!

One thought on “Writing the Hike

  1. I don’t have a hiking journal, but I’ve kept a journal for a few years now, and I write in it every day. I think that’s exactly it, to capture your thoughts as you hike through a particular route. The little details like weather and temperature do actually add to the experience (I keep a weather log in mine), but I think one day when you read your old posts, what you’ll really want is the snapshots of what you’re thinking at that particular moment.

    Wishing you the best with this journal, and do share it with us once you’ve filled it!


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