I love to write. Expressing myself in words on paper (or on the virtual parchment of the computer screen) is fun. I find written composition to be peaceful and relaxing. I love the reality of being able to erase or delete what I don’t like. With a simple key stroke or a crumpled page sitting in the bottom of the waste can, a bad idea or a run-on sentence is eliminated from human consumption.
However, I am not disciplined in keeping a journal. I wish I were because a journal captures history on a daily basis. Reading a past journal allows the author to go back in time remembering details, sequences, emotions, perspectives, and insights. The journals are not guaranteed to be factual or even truthful, but if kept with integrity they can capture the reality of the author’s perspective.
All of that to say, I am very inconsistent in my journaling. But during my thru-hike of the AT, I kept a daily journal without fail. My handwriting is pretty sloppy and the journal entries are laced with lots of misspelled words and cryptic abbreviations. But I made notes even when I was dog tired at night, or hiding in my tent as the rain pounded down on my shelter, or writing by headlamp after a beautiful sunset. Some entries were filled with description and detail, others were bullet points with just some basic parts of the day that I did not want to forget.
Once Maine was a fond memory in my past and I was able to prop my feet up on my sofa in Ohio and enjoy a cup of tea, my journal became precious. I spent several months transcribing to a word document so I could correct all my spelling errors, reconstruct some bad grammar, and formulate some good paragraphs out of some of my more cryptic notes. I have read and reread the journal several times in the past two years, each time finding myself mentally and emotionally back on the trail with trekking poles in my hands.
Without the journal I would not have been able to write my book. Hike It Forward is not a reprinting of my journal. I have included a greatly abbreviated version of the journal but the book is more topical and informational than it is a day-to-day account of the thru-hike. But, if I had not kept a journal, my story would have just been a disjointed set of experiences without a timeline or a context of order.
The lesson from the trail. Let your pencil remember what your mind will forget. My journal will serve as a precious document for me personally as I reflect on God’s faithfulness to me during this transformational journey.