500 Moleskine Miles


Backpack… check.
Water… check.
First aid kit… check.
Journal… check!

I can’t picture myself hiking without packing my journal first.  I have hiked nearly one thousand trail miles since May 2009 and every step of the way, I had a journal in my pocket, ready to take out to jot down trail conditions, comment on the weather, or maybe sketch a nature sighting. They say that there are ten essential pieces of  gear that every hiker should bring with them in case of an emergency.  Items like food & water, a first-aid kit, a knife, and matches.  Those are all well and good, but I consider a journal to be the eleventh essential.  To me, forgetting a journal on a hike would be like forgetting to turn off the kitchen stove.  Without question, I’d drive home to retrieve it,  just as I would drive home to turn off the stove.

I’ve jokingly told people that if my apartment were to catch fire, you’d see me running out of building with just a bag full of my journals. Truth be told, I keep them in a drawer near the front door, just in case.

I normally write in just one journal a year, recording my annual international trip.  This was not the case for 2010.   Here are a few pages from the three journals I wrote in over the last 12 months. I guess I had a lot to write about.

All of them are a bit bloated with ephemera like beer labels, business cards, and park ticket stubs.

The Mission Statement. Words to live by for the year.

Sketching trail maps and adding my own notations worked towards pushing short-term memories into long-term storage, both physically (in the book) and mentally (in my brain). This is a theme I'll be mentioning often in these captions. I'd sketch the map either before or after the hike, depending on how much planning I did. If I drew the map well enough, I would use the sketch as my trail map (with a topo in my backpack, just in case.)

Another trail map along with a post-hike sketch of my friend, Casey, standing on Inspiration Point. The sketch was based on a photo I took during the hike. A camera is my twelfth essential hiking item.

2010 was the Year of the Mushroom for me. I became intensely curious about them and their life cycle. I never picked them or ate them, but enjoyed sketching or photographing them. The sketches on these pages of the different aspects of mushrooms were based on a mushroom guidebook, a heavy tome I didn't want to carry while hiking.

Finding feathers on a trail are a curiosity and a mystery. When I see one, I jump into the roll of a crime scene investigator. Where did the bird go? Was it attacked? If so, then by what? Did the feathers come out naturally as it flew overhead? Was the bird launched from a slingshot into a pig castle and this is all that remained?

These two sketches were drawn post hike and are based on photographs taken while on the hikes. Sketching a scene helps again with moving the hikes into my long-term memory through meaningful association.

Griffith Park in Los Angeles has a mess of trails running up and over its mountains. Again, drawing the trail map helped me learn the different routes.

Anywhere I see a rubber stamp being used, I ask for one in my journal. Post office stamps are difficult to get (top left) since usually only mail is stamped, but National Park stamps (bottom right) are out on the counter for anyone to use at park visitor centers.

If 2010 was the Year of the Mushroom for me, then 2009 was the Year of the Beetle. I still am quite fascinated by beetles and thought it would be helpful to have a sketch of a beetle's anatomical features. I copied this from a guidebook.

These bugs and plants were sketched while on the trail. I'd carry a small pocket magnifying loupe to study the details of interesting nature I'd find on a hike.

Here's a page from my New Zealand journal. The trail map was drawn differently than my usual map sketches whereas it is more of a mash-up of a trail map and a timeline. It shows small notations of conditions, nature sightings, or personal thoughts notated along a line representing the trail.

The cat-faced orb-weaver spider on the right was sketched at home using photos I took while backpacking in the Eastern Sierras. The seed pod on the right was sketched while on a trail. Trail sketches of mine tend to be fast and messy while compared to those I do at the comfort of my desk at home.

I went on a rainy day hike and met a California toad, the first I'd seen in the wild. Sketch worthy! Despite the rain, I would still whip out my journal to jot a few notes. Moleskines do a good job of holding ink, even while it's raining.

This page was transferred information from my New Zealand journal into my "500 Miles by 2010" journal. The page on the right is from my "timeline trail map" (shown earlier in this post) but written on a sketched map drawn more to scale.

In the back pages of each of my hiking journals, I kept very detailed lists of the hikes I completed, helping me keep track of the trail mileage towards my goal of reaching 500 miles.

I was also a little curious on how much I hiked during the year. Here I kept a tally of how many days during the year I hiked and camped.

To view more pages from my journals, check out this Flickr Collection.

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