A guest post from 2011 PCT hiker Wired — first of two parts
Over the five months that I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2011, I had the unexpected fortune of being able to share my journey with thousands of people all over the world. My trail journal, and those I met through it, became the most amazing surprise of my whole hike. I started with no blogging experience before the hike, and now people just like me a year ago, are contacting me to ask how they too could do the same sort of journal. In these two articles, I will explain how my journal evolved and my advice to others who hope to also journal along the PCT.
In preparation for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, I did what many prospective thru hikers do…I read online trail journals. I was surprised to see that with today’s technology, some were able to post almost daily from the trail. It was both inspiring and addictive to follow along on their journeys, while knowing that I would be doing the exact same trail a year later. When it came time for me to finalize my plans, there were many reasons why I chose to do a trail journal. I primarily wanted to share the journey with my friends and family. Most of my family and friends are not familiar with the lifestyle of a thru hiker and I wanted them to really understand what a thru hike is all about. As a solo female hiker, I wanted my family to know I was okay. Pushing a button on a personal locator beacon each night wasn’t enough. I also had a lot of guilt that I was dropping everything and leaving everyone to do something solely for myself. That is not in my nature. In a way, journaling helped me to balance the scales. I was inspired by the journals I read and I wanted to continue the cycle. What I never expected was how many it would inspire and that it would be followed by thousands all over the world!
Similar to how each hiker finds the gear that best fits them, there are also multiple options for journaling. I looked at what seemed to be the top four: Postholer, Trail Journals, Blogspot, and WordPress (Tumblr is quickly growing).
Each has their own pros/cons and I ended up choosing Blogspot. This gave me the option of uploading a lot of videos and pictures in ways that I was already comfortable with (since I use gmail and Picasa). I also liked that the site could be unique to me and that I could organize it to fit my personality. I recommend practicing for a couple of months before the hike if you are new to blogging. There is a lot of learn-as-you-go skills and troubleshooting that will pop up as you start. It takes a lot of time to get started, but it becomes second nature after the initial setup and adjustments. If creating the journal is the first step, finding a way to journal from the trail is the second step.
Journaling from the trail can be challenging at times, but with stubbornness and persistence (which all thru hikers have!), anything is possible. There are many options for journaling on the trail that include using Smartphones, using a Peek messaging device, trail town computers, bouncing personal laptops, and sending entries home for another person to post. I used the iPhone and found it to be an amazing tool. If you want to attempt to post often from the trail, make sure you use Verizon. It is, by far, the best reception on the trail. I knew people who had high hopes of journaling daily and ended up sadly disappointed when they couldn’t, because they didn’t have reception. Again, I strongly recommend that you practice a lot with the device that you will be using on the trail. Like many things on the trail, there is a significant learning curve. Finding what works best for you can take a lot of time. In the next article, I will explain how all of this comes together in the trail world.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me on my journal at erinspctjournal.blogspot.com