Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Journal keeping

14th September 2018

One thing that I do not keep myself is a written diary though photos from various outings act as prompts for my memory at times. Until his health no longer allowed him, my late father used to keep a diary and often referred to it when trying to unearth what happened on a particular day. After his passing, they were put somewhere more discreet for the sake of maintaining a sense of dignity.

It is not recent encounters with lapses of memory that has brought this to mind but recent reading. Over the summer, I got to catching up with Chris Townsend’s Rattlesnakes and Bald Eagles where a long hike along the Pacific Crest Trail from thirty years before was recounted lucidly. That was followed by Hamish’s Mountain Walk by Hamish Brown where mentions of journal keeping appear in the a narrative that includes reminiscences from twenty or so preceding years of wandering about Scotland’s hills. Going back further in time, I then read Mary T. S. Schaffer’s Old Indian Trails of the Canadian Rockies where journal keeping again must have made the retelling of summer expeditions from several years before that bit more successful.

Thinking about it now, I find myself wondering just how much travel writing needs a supporting diary or journal to make it work. Currently, I am making my way through Bradt’s Roam Alone with its tales of solo travelling that read so fresh that you have to wonder if some contemporary notes assisted the various short stories.

All this probably should make me consider if scribbling a few notes at the end of each excursion might be worthwhile given how long I have tended to leave things before writing them on here. It is true that less adventurous rambles leave less of an imprint on anyone’s memory as I found with one more recent trip report so that might be a hint that new experiences should be sought on a continuing basis. In the meantime, my memory often beats others so that might explain how I never got thinking these thoughts before now.

Life’s journey has followed that trail in recent years and new things have been tried. Maybe, it might be no harm to keep doing that with my wanderings too. Revisiting old haunts brings satisfaction but exploring new places keeps things from feeling stale. Adventurous thoughts lead to roaming North America, New Zealand or Australia in my mind’s eye but there are other possibilities closer to hand. It is a matter of making some time to uncover them and then make the most of what is there.


  • John says:

    One example where the lack of a journal stymied an author’s ambitions was Patrick Leigh Fermor’s tale of his walk from London to Istanbul in the interwar years. Word War II and the descent of the Iron Curtain meant that he could not retrieve his notebooks from Romania. Without them, he faced a mental block while writing the last instalment of the trilogy so he left almost until his death before he did anything about it. Even now, it remains incomplete though it is in published form. It offers a lesson: look after your journals if you want to write a book telling the story of a journey after it gets completed.

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