A hiking journal can enhance your outdoor experience, while helping you retain special memories. Here's why and how to start journaling on your hiking or camping adventures, as well as some of our favorite hiking journal prompts.
At its simplest level, journaling allows you to recall key aspects of your hikes. Whether you hike every other week or once per year, it will be hard to recall all of your experiences. While you may always remember your trek around Yosemite's Mirror Lake, you're likely to forget key details about lesser hikes, whether its wildlife, flora, weather or great conversation with a friend.
A hiking journal can also force you to be more mindful of your surroundings, so you can engage the moment and let go of your stress. Research has shown that people experience increased well-being when they practice mindfulness. Other studies have shown that people enjoy both mental and physical health benefits when they spend time in nature. Still more research has shown that journaling can improve emotional and physical well-being. A hiking journal combines all of these benefits into one powerful experience.
Whatever your reason for keeping one, a hiking journal allows you to re-experience special moments weeks or years after they've occurred. It also helps you build deeper connections between yourself and the landscapes you traverse.
If you are new to journaling, there are a few basics you should know, including:
Purchase the right journal. Look for a flexible, compact, weatherproof journal and always keep it in the same place within your backpack.
Prepare your mind. Before you embark on your hike, ask yourself some priming questions, such as, "What do I want to get out of this hike? What do I hope to see? Am I looking for any particular flora or wildlife? What kind of weather should I expect?” This will help you remember to pull out your journal more often throughout your hike.
Take supporting photos. If you plan to share your journal online, take plenty of relevant photos, using your phone or digital camera. Even if you plan to keep your hiking journal private, these photos will help you visualize your writing, when the memories start to get fuzzy down the line.
Watch for prompts. It's quite common for hikers to complete a hike only to realize they forgot to write in their journals. You can use inspiring prompts to help remind yourself to write. Some good examples include:
- Identifying patterns and repetitions in nature.
- Recognizing edible plants amid poisonous vegetation.
- Noticing a distinctive scent.
- Imagining how you would describe the trail to someone who's never seen it.
- Looking for signs of change within nature.
- Experiencing an "aha" moment when you feel inspired, relaxed or one with nature.
Write anything, everything or nothing at all. Even if you have trouble finding inspiration, you can still write about what you're feeling in the moment. At the same time, you may feel that a particular hike is best enjoyed without documentation. Whatever the case, your journal should feel like an outlet and not a responsibility. While it is important to get in the habit of journaling, it should never make a hike feel like a job.
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