Adventure Journal

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Keeping an Adventure Journal: Tips for Getting Started

“The key to keeping a satisfying journal is simply to loosen up,” says Karen Hostetter, contributing editor for Backpacker magazine and editor of Adventure Journal, a book of bound blank pages handily formatted to help you create your own masterpiece. “Forget about trying to document every turn in the trail, every gorgeous vista, every hour of every day of your trip. Just write something. Draw something. If you dare, paint something. Don’t let the blank pages intimidate you and don’t worry about crafting perfect complete sentences. ‘Stream of consciousness’ writing is very therapeutic and fun to read. Sentence fragments are perfectly acceptable. Spelling mistakes? Who cares!”

Here are some tips to getting started:

  • Pack a pencil with eraser and a ballpoint pen (which won’t smudge or run if a raindrop hits a page). If you want to try watercolors, check an art supply store for small, packable kits that come in hard plastic containers.
  • Stash all your supplies in a zipper-lock bag, and don’t bury the bag at the bottom of your pack where it will be forgotten.
  • Write about the best and worst things that happened to you in the last 24 hours. Think beyond the pretty things you see. Your best and worst moments could be a fantastic meal, a great conversation, jumping into a lovely lake, a lung-busting climb, a moment of panic, or simply crawling into your sleeping bag with a hot water bottle at the end of the day.
  • Make time to write in your journal. It’s easy to tell yourself the day is too hectic (too many miles to hike, dinner to cook, dishes to do, water to pump, tents to set up, etc.) to journal. But crazy days make for the best journal entries! Whether it’s a few sleepy minutes in your bag at night, a quiet sunrise session with a cup of java, or a midday snack break, jot down something that reflects your day.
  • Try to keep things varied. Maybe you want to fill some pages with words, but try mixing things up, too. No need to always write horizontally across the page. Try writing diagonally or tilt the book sideways and write across the long side. Draw little symbols that reflect the weather, such as your idea of a sun symbol for sunny skies, a cloud drawing for overcast, raindrops for rain, etc.
  • To jazz up a page, try the occasional list. An example from an all-girls trip: Things girls do when boys aren’t around: 1) fish; 2) drink scotch; 3) play chess; 4) give everything a name (as in “Scottie” for the bottle of scotch); 5) spin tales; 6) relax; and 7) curse.
  • Try your hand at poetry, even if it’s just a goofy limerick. You and your hiking buddies might come up with these as you stroll down the trail; record them for posterity.
  • Need some help with inspiring words? Try some of these: awe-inspiring, awesome, balanced, beautiful, breathtaking, calm, charming, clear, dazzling, delicate, delightful, dignified, divine, elegant, ethereal, exhilarating, exquisite, glittering, glorious, graceful, grant, great, harmonious, heavenly, imposing, impressive, inspiring, invigorating, limpid, magnificent, majestic, noble, peaceful, radiant, refreshing, regal, resplendent, rousing, sacred, serene, simple, splendid, stirring, sublime, tranquil, undisturbed, uplifting, wondrous.

—Adapted from Adventure Journal, edited by Karen Hostetter; published by The Mountaineers Books, $10.95

Sample Journaling Topics to Inspire You

  • Hello bear! Had any exciting wildlife encounters?
  • What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve experienced so far?
  • What foods (or beverages) are you craving? Did any meals win “worst campfood” awards? Learn any meal ideas from others?
  • Weather affecting your mood, itinerary, gear, comfort, and your trip?
  • Have you had any epiphanies about your “real” life back home? Things you want to do, or do better, or stop doing?
  • Wonderful water. Have you come across a particularly tasty, cold creek or a refreshing swimming hole?
  • There once was a…
  • Seen any colorful wildflowers on this trip?
  • Gear: a love/hate relationship. What’s the worst gear malfunction you’ve ever had?
  • What games have you and your comrades played or invented?
  • Missing someone? Write a passionate letter to a loved one back home. You don’t have to mail it!
  • Litterbugs, loud Larrys, mooches—had any experience with these types on the trail?
  • What are the dynamics of your group?
  • If you could take a camping trip with anyone in the world, who would it be?
  • Each trip is a learning experience. What will you take away from this trip?

    —Adapted from Adventure Journal, edited by Karen Hostetter; published by The Mountaineers Books, $10.95
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