Journaling Your Journeys

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Sheila, Day Hiking Ambassador

Last winter, while on a snowshoeing trip to western Maine, I visited one of my favorite outdoor gear stores in Rangeley, ME. There, I picked up a commercially published canoeing journal; I have always kept a casual log of my bicycling activities, and note my hikes on the calendar…but I had never seen a canoeing journal before. Well, I surprised myself, and kept up this journal for all 6 months of the paddling season, and found that I really enjoyed documenting our adventures. Now that snowshoeing season is around the corner, I realized that such a journal for winter activities could also be useful…helpful in writing my blog entries, documenting what we learn about trails, and monitoring my progress through the season. Alas, no such published journal could be found, so I have developed my own “Journal of Snowshoe Outings.”

This is not an online diary, or a photo log, or a blog…but an actual book, a physical document with pages that I can flip through, each page eliciting memories of a particular outing and adventure. When you head out on snowshoes as frequently as do I, you can lose track of the hike. Each of my treks is usually documented by at least a few photos….but photos are only a visual impetus for recollection, and do not always tell the complete story.

My journal has pages I designed that highlight the important elements of the trip, to cue recollections (both good and bad) . The effort required to keep up this journal is actually minimal, or it would be a practice that I start with good intentions, but would be unable, or unwilling to follow through with on a regular basis. My experience over the past season is that journal writing did not become an obsession or burden, but rather an activity which took a few minutes of time, usually right after I put the gear way.

What are the points that I will be documenting in my journal? The journal will contain notations such as:

  • What were the challenges of the trip? weather, intensity of climb, snow depth, cold
  • Companions?    friends, both people and k9
  • Directional lessons? Was the map accurate, which trail spur had the better view?
  • What did I learn? Which techniques or gear helped you out? Did I use my Tubbs FLEX ALPs, or my Wilderness 30s?
  • What wildlife did I see? Where did we see the white ermine running across the snow? What time of day was it when we saw the moose in the Nulhegan Basin? Where was I when I first saw that “life bird” ?

Keeping such a journal over the course of a season can show you the progress you have made. You will be able to look back and be amazed at how far you have come. The journal actually turns into your personal “Best Trails” guide; you will remember the best trails you hiked, and which trails you are going to avoid next season. If someone asks you for trail advice, you can have access to particulars about the trails you have traveled.

I developed my journal to address the particular elements that are important to me. If you decide to journal your adventures, keep the process simple and manageable…you will end the season with quite a record of accomplishment!

Now, enough of writing…time to get out and enjoy the winter wilderness!

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