Keeping hiking records

When I first began keeping records of my hiking adventures in 2005, I bought a hardcover blank book. In this journal I recorded stories from the trail, usually written just after the hike was over. I immediately chose a format that went something like this:

  • Date
  • Name of hike
  • Trails included
  • Mileage/ elevation gain/ start and end time
  • List of wildlife seen and heard
  • Long description of the hike

That first book is filled with a year of adventures dating from June, 2005 to July 2006. It is mostly because I kept these notes that I can go back in time and recount the places I’ve been.

The other useful information I gathered on each of these hikes is my photos. I have folders on my computer that area organized by year, location and hike date. So, if I want to see what I was up to in 2011 I can choose the folder “Oregon 2011” or “Washington 2011” or if I got further afield I can choose “Other States.” Combining the written data and the visual information I can often paint a pretty good picture of what happened on that day.

The wayback machine: 2005, Mt. Carrigain NH.

For the Hike366 project, I’m compiling data from these sources to find connecting threads, themes and learning experiences from the past decade plus of hiking. The first step is going back and publishing a blog for each of the 366 hikes. It turns out I have already written and published these right after the hike was completed. But there are many stories that are trapped inside the hard cover of my journal.

If you dig around on jessb.org (my other site) you will find that the older entries are filling in. I’m going back to 2005 to start from there, working my way forward chronologically. It is a tedious task but something that will help me organize the 366 in a meaningful way.

In addition to this raw data, I have two spreadsheets: one for all hikes and one for this project. My hike spreadsheet is the master list of every hike I’ve ever done (mostly) and I try to be as accurate and succinct as possible. My columns are:

  • Date
  • Hike Name
  • State
  • Time
  • Elevation gain
  • Distance
  • Elevation gain/distance ratio
  • Speed (distance/time)
  • Notes*
  • GPS point

There are two more columns: “Trip” and “Overnight.” I put a “1” in the cell on the first hike on each trip. So, for example, if I take a 3-day roadtrip and do 5 hikes during that time, that counts as 1 trip. For the “overnight” column I put a “1” in the cell for the first hike on any trip where I’m backpacking in. (Car camping doesn’t count). By totaling the 1’s at the end of the year I can tally up how many general trips I took and how many backpacking trips I took.

*A note on the notes column. I keep this short on purpose. I do not allow myself to use multiple lines. Typical entries include whether I was solo or with a group, the weather, trail conditions, any unusual occurrences or the purpose of the trip. Longer write-ups can be done in a notebook or on my website.

Keeping these records has been useful for helping me set goals, learn more about my patterns, appreciate the variety of places I’ve traveled and get this project put together! I sometimes enjoy just sitting down and scrolling through years past to see what kinds of things I was up to. Once I start flipping through old photo albums on my computer…well, many an hour has passed doing that!

Since the advent of cellphone cameras and seemingly endless digital storage it has become easier to keep track of hiking adventures. But I really enjoy the journaling aspect of tracking hikes as well. Many of those journal entries will never make it to public view, but having those journals to dust off and read every couple years is priceless.

The inception of hike366

I wasn’t always a year-round hiker.

I remember very specifically the day that it occurred to me that hiking wasn’t just a summer activity. I was out on the trail with a fellow hiker that I’d met through a New England hiking forum. We were huffing and puffing up a mountain and I asked him, “so how do you learn to hike in the winter time?”

He gave me the best and simplest advice: “you just keep hiking through the fall and pay attention to the changes that happen around you.”

Duh.

From that day forward I felt empowered to learn new things by putting myself out there. In the months and years that followed, I sought out new friends and mentors who would accompany me through those tough fall and winter days in the White Mountains. I learned from my companions, and through trial and error, what equipment I needed, how to plan for seasonal challenges, and when to turn around and try again another day. Hiking became a thing that I did, not just on occasional bluebird days in the summer, but in every kind of weather imaginable. At any time of year.

As I accumulated more and more hikes I became proficient in dealing with rain, snow, wind, cold, heat and everything in between. I logged hikes in every month of the year in different parts of the country (and a few outside the country). So when I was posed with the question: have you hiked on every calendar date of the year, I figured that I had.

And when I learned that I had not, well, that was a challenge I just had to accept.