In the fall of 1985, after a summer backpacking the Appalachian Trail, I spent extensive time at a donut shop north of Boston. I know, there’s no worse way to sabotage a svelte hiker waistline than keeping company with chocolate croissants and dark roast coffee. But I wasn’t there for an insatiable sugar binge. I was there to write (OK, I did have some coffee).
I was there to copy what I had journaled that summer from one notebook into another. I knew the fuzzing of memory over time would dim the the events of those rare days. The photos I’d taken could never express my feelings, and some entries were so sparse they barely described what happened. To prevent the potential fraying of my recall over time from robbing me of a record of that hiking season, it was vital I transcribe and clarify my brief journal.
First I reviewed the original material and jotted notes on entries which required expansion. I corrected misremembered points. I expounded on moments which had deep meaning. I used a fresh corps of words to conjure a picture which featured adventure and exhaustion, frustration and elation, sadness and loneliness. I penciled in what I felt and thought, all my regrets, misgivings, and moments when endorphins had me feeling I might take wing from the glorious summits I scaled.
I recorded it all: the pain and pleasure, the wrong turns and risks taken. I apprised the me I had then and since become, capturing in a net of ink and paper a person who, though different today, still lives. My journal became a lesson book that still reflects the vibrant risk taker I had become. Each time I read it, I feel I’ve come home. No video, photo, or electronic blog post can take me back to the intimacy, power and precious story of those days like my handwritten journal.
Thus I would admonish you, my friendly reader; though you blog and video and snap the shutter, nothing will make your hiking memory become a valued legacy like taking pen to paper to document the details. Do it soon. Because — over time — you’ll surely forget!