Hiking Journals

Journaling is a wonderful way to slow down and reflect on any experience. It can be used to record statistics and observations. To capture impressions and feelings. Keeping a hiking journal can combine any one of those or all of the facts and emotions around your hiking experiences.

But first an admission I hate to make. Overall I’m a bit of a foul weather journal writer. I’ve always found when I’m in times of stress that grabbing the journal that sits at my bedside is the only way I can clear my head when insomnia gets the better of me. Thankfully it’s months or even years between my sleepless night induced writing.

My hiking journals are helping me to consider journaling for positive reasons too. At some point early in my hiking it was suggested to a group I was with that journaling about your hiking experiences is a great way to remember details that might otherwise be forgotten and that make telling about your adventures even richer. I’m sure it was on a trip with Scouts. The idea stuck. So I started with the big adventures.

Memories Filled with Gratitude

When I accompanied the crew to Philmont Scout Ranch in 2015, I took a small, blank Molskine cashier journal on the trip. The crew members all got a journal at check-in, but I opted to stick with the one I’d brought to collect my thoughts and the stamps at each camp that included the camp, date and elevation. I took time at camp each night to write about the day. The challenges and the excitement. Something remarkable that we’d seen or been part of on trail or at a camp. It helped keep all the days, as they strung along like beads on a necklace, straight for me in my mind. And the two camps that we stayed at that didn’t have a stamp? I drew one for myself and a couple other crew members who wanted one for their journal too.


“We climbed the 8,640 feet to the ridge line and the boys all used the P-to-B. Zach calling “boom, boom” down to the camp and getting the “huzzah” response from the staff. I on the other hand, was completely overjoyed – to the point of tears – by the beauty and the fact that I was standing in a place I never imagined I could”

Sealy Canyon, Philmont Scout Ranch, Day 5, August 3, 2015

Reflecting on the Challenge

When I started preparing for my solo hike of Isle Royale, I quickly added a journal to my gear. It wasn’t even an option to leave it out. I wanted to be able to return from my trip and share every detail with family since I was not going to have anyone who’d been there with me to reminisce. It helped me get through the hard, exhausting days at the front end of the trip when I got to camp by myself to have my journal to turn to.


I’m ok with the quiet (tonight) so I can be more disciplined about going to bed and getting on trail (tomorrow). I’m moving much slower than I’d like – about a mile per hour. The mud and elevation changes as well as the unchanging scenery make the miles drag on. And I’m not as well trained for this as I’d hoped to be.”

West Chickenbone Lake Campsite, Isle Royale, July 14, 2017

Celebrating the Unexpected

Then on the trip that Zach and I took to the Badlands. Everything from my terror of driving on the Rim Road at Badlands National Park to the etherial beauty of Sage Creek Campground. Then the beautiful campsite at Sylvan Lake Campground, hiking the base of Devil’s Tower and all the points in between. The experience is richer to me. And, while I have the photos from the trip, the journal is the record of the places that match and the impressions the places made on me that pictures can’t capture.

” I was up at 5 a.m. to heed the call of nature and was surprised as I stepped out of my tent at the most striking pre-sunrise moment. The moon was hovering in the sky above the horizon with a single star above it. I woke Zach up to see it. We tried to capture it in pictures and then climbed back in our tents to sleep for another hour or so.”

Sage Creek Camp Ground, Badlands National Park, Sunday, August 17, 2017

Recording Steps Toward a Goal

This year when I decided to re-up my commitment to complete the 52 Hike Challenge in 2019, I decided it was time to journal my hikes. In finishing up the 2018 Challenge, I’d realized that somewhere in my social media posts I’d gotten off in numbering and had backtracked by nearly 15 hikes. I wanted to be more conscious of my progress and I’d also started realizing that as I combined the hiking with my role as a Women Who Hike Ambassador and my goal of hiking in all the Minnesota State Parks, that I’d be a rather knowledgeable person about the parks. So all of those things lead to year another big, audacious goal journal for 2019.

Looking Forward

While I don’t know what my big hiking goal for 2020 will be yet, I know for certain that somewhere in it there will be a small brown paperback journal tucked into a waterproof bag along with a pencil. Because I’d hate to miss getting all that fun down on paper for posterity. Or to forget a delightful detail to share in a blog post.

Do you journal about your outdoor adventures?

Share them with me in the comments or tag me in a post on Facebook or Instagram!


GEAR: Molskine Lined Cashier Journal and a good ole’ #2 pencil (because you can sharpen it with a pocket knife and there aren’t moving parts to break or lose on trail).

Next Post Preview: Is anybody’s guess. Come back and find out!



Copyright Ruth Wikoff-Jones, ruthsbluemarble.com | No Use Permitted Without Prior Permission

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2 thoughts on “Hiking Journals

  1. Love this post! I’m currently reading Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose about Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery journey west to the Pacific. It’s all based on journals kept by Lewis and the crew. Your post and the book show how valuable journaling our adventures are!

    Liked by 1 person

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