View Full Version : journaling

04-27-2003, 23:24
Over the weekend, I was reading an old hiking journal of mine. I enjoyed it but I think there is room for improvement.

What makes a good journal? What makes a bad one? How do you improve your journaling?

[I think my old English teacher would be shocked if she saw this post!]

04-28-2003, 05:36
you're asking the wrong person, i dont even take pictures! well i tried to take pics but digital is sucking for me...i do sign in the shelter logs but ususally just name/time/date and where headed...

Hammock Hanger
04-28-2003, 07:54
When I use to teach journaling to my scouts I always started out with this is JUST FOR YOUR EYES ONLY!! Therefore write everything and anything. State your inner most thoughts, hold nothing back. Remember no one is going to read it but you.

Well, that was before online journaling became so popular.

When I journal I still try to be as open as possible. I try to write about the good as well as the bad. Since it is online it is more like a novel then a "private journey log". I also try to explain what is and isn't working with the hike regarding equipment, mindset, etc. Alot of the folks who read are pre-hikers looking for ideas.

As I began to have more and more people following my hike and journal I began to write directly to them. Many told me they were hiking through me, so then I began to take them on the adventure in a more personal one on one way. I have had over 80,000 hits on my 2001 attempted thru-hike. I still have people email with comments regarding it.

My journal took on a life of it's own... but I truly enjoyed the readers and their support. :banana HH

Lone Wolf
04-28-2003, 08:10

04-28-2003, 09:51
I try to think of what the parts of the day were that I found most significant. Pick one or two of those and describe them in great detail. Also descibe the campsite and the characters that you meet in great detail. When I look back at my journal I hope to be able to recreate the day in my head - each day usually revolves around a few highs a few lows and the location you are hiking. Note landmarks that you pass so that you can remember what section of trail they were in. Things like "there were lots of ups and downs today" ususally mean nothing when you look back at them because almost every stretch of a mountainous trail are ups and downs. Like anything practice makes perfect. My wife and I notice our journal entries naturally evolving into much more decriptive passages the longer we are out on the trail. The first week we were out on the AT, the journals were really dull and we had to force ourselves to write one paragraph. By the end of the trip, two pages would flow out of us easily and the detail turns from one word to 5 sentences.

I look forward to hearing others' posts on this topic.

04-28-2003, 10:26
I try to note people that I meet along the way and the impressions that they make on me. I also try to pick out unusual features of the path. For example, noting the location of an expansive field of ramps, deer stands above the trail, etc. I also try to give an idea of how far (mileage+gain) and long (time) I hiked that day, what kind of breaks I took, if there was a particularly nice place to sit, etc. Finally, I try to write down how I happen to feel at the time. Both in regards to how my day went, but how the trip is progressing. I may remember a particular day as being very enjoyable, but when I go back and read the journal entry from that day it is frequently filled with a lot of nastiness.

TJ aka Teej
04-28-2003, 12:55
Example of bad journaling:
Woke 6AM. Poptart, lemonade, bagel. Hiked 7.2 miles. Gorp, lemonade, 2 snickers, pepperoni. Hiked 8.37 miles. Liptons, peanut butter, bagel, cheese, lemonade. This shelter has mice.

Example of good journaling:

I transcribed Magaroni's AT98 and PCT02 journals. I don't think he mentioned his gear much... I haven't a clue what tent he used, what stove, or what filter. He wrote about how he felt, what he thought, where he was. He wrote about meeting people, and the fun he had. I hope people enjoyed reading it as much as I did!

Another example of bad journaling is to add too much personal info about about hikers. "BigBoobs and SleepsAround left their pot with Klansman when they went out to shoplift beer to sneak into the church hostel."

Journaling with style, ala Rhymin'Worm:

Another good journal: "Walking with Spring", by Earl Shaffer.
First thruhiker, first journal, and first Trail Name too.
Locals called him "The Crazy One." :D

04-28-2003, 13:51
While I was doing my journaling on the trip, I thought I was being very reflective, and writing well. Now, when I re-read what I've written, I think it sounds lame, boring, and pretty much all the same "had a good day today..." etc. I didn't reflect on the things that now really stand out in my mind, so if I had it to do over again, I would invest more time in my journaling. I would pay more attention to how I was really feeling that day, try to record more names of the people I met, and write more as HH suggested, for "my eyes only". I think maybe I held a lot back because I knew I would be mailing my journals home as I completed them, and I was worried they'd be read. If I had it to do over again, I would try to capture "me on that day", instead of just the day itself.

04-30-2003, 12:17
I have enjoyed reading all the comments so far.

I'm currently reading the book "Into the Wilderness Dream - Exploration Narratives of the American West, 1500-1805", which contains excerpts from 36 different explores of that time. At the beginning of each excerpt is an introduction where the editors make notes about the historical context, and why they find this particular writing to be interesting, describing what they find redeeming about the journal they excerpt from. Reading this book is part of what got me started at looking more critically at my own journals.

One of the excerpts is of Father Juan Crespi, who was exploring the Pacific coast of what is now Canada in 1774. The editorial note mentions that he is one of four diarists on this expedition, and that his diary isn't the most accurate of the 4 due to sea sickness, but (quoting a historian) "one can see evidence of frequent diary writing and a dedication to certain details that escaped the less experienced but more enthusiastic Father Tomas de la Pena." Reading the diary, I can see the great detail in his writing, and it makes it quite interesting. When bartering with the Indians on Queen Charlotte Island, the diary notes "The sailors gave them knives, old clothing and beads, and they in return gave skins of the otter and other animals unknown, very well tanned and dressed; coverlets of otterskin sewn together so well that the best tailor could not sew them better; other coverlets, or blankets of fine wool, or the hair of animals that seemed like wool, finely woven and ornamented with the same hair of various colors, principally white, black and yellow, the weaving being so close that it appeared as though done on a loom." [Just to note this was translated from Spanish, so it uses modern spelling and grammar, making it easy to read.]

Not to mislead anyone, much of this book I just skimmed over, as it was a little dry, but here and there were some interesting stuff mixed in. This book did spark my interest in a few early explores I have never heard before, so it has been a useful resource, in addition to the editorial comments mentioned above.