- Hi Kolby! Tell us a little more about yourself and your background.I'm a technical support specialist for a small business-to-business company in Bend, Oregon. I was born in Oregon, but moved quite a bit before I decided to return as an adult in 2011. My childhood wasn't any more or less exciting than most. I attended California State University in Fullerton where I learned everything except for how to get good grades. Despite leaving without a cap and gown, I consider myself a lifelong learner and have taken classes in a half-dozen colleges. I'm currently working towards a certificate in the Oregon Master Naturalist program at Oregon State University. I am the webmaster for thehikeguy.com, but I mainly update on my public Facebook page where I talk about hiking, journaling, nature, and other things that I hope others appreciate. I'm currently writing a guidebook on the buttes of central Oregon, tentatively titled Hike Your Butte Off!, as well as a book on my 2012-2013 100 Hikes Project.
- When did you decide to start your hiking journal, and how long have you been documenting your travels?When I was in my twenties, I backpacked for a few months around Europe. My passions for backpacking and journaling were born on this trip. Other passions have ebbed and flowed since then, but I still enjoy keeping a written (and drawn) journal and I hike 500-800 miles a year.
When I landed in Europe on that first big solo journey of my life, it was September 11th, 2001. I watched in horror from thousands of miles away as the attacks of that day unfolded. I felt alone and too far from my family, so to quell the homesickness, I began keeping a journal. It started with jotting down useful info - a hostel's phone number, a cyber café's address, museum hours - but soon the notes became sentences and then eventually paragraphs. By the end of my journey, after 77 days and 14 countries, I had filled three journals and over 500 pages with drawings, writings, and ephemera. Ever since that amazing trip, I've kept journals to document other big adventures and projects.
- What are your stationery essentials on these hikes?I've tried an assortment of blank books and writing utensils, but I normally carry a Pocket Plain Moleskine notebook, a black ballpoint BIC Round Stic pen, and a mechanical pencil. On most journeys, one book will be enough paper acreage for my notes and sketches. However, I've taken a few long hikes that required a resupply of journals. I spent the summer of 2011 hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, spending my days walking, taking photos, and journaling. I always kept my journal in my breast pocket, to pull out when inspiration struck. After a few hundred miles of hiking, I'd ask a friend or family member to send me a new journal from my reserves to a post office up the trail, and I'd send the filled journal home. After six months, I had hiked about 1,700 miles and filled 800 pages. It wasn't until November that I was able to see all the journals I had mailed home. Unwrapping them was an exciting moment. I felt like I was being reacquainted with old friends.
- What notebook and pen do you find that works best for your outdoor travels? What features do you like most about them?I've always trusted the pocket plain Moleskine, but only the hardcover version. The boards on a softcover tend to soak up rain and sweat, causing the pages to smear my writings and sketches around the edges. I attempted to carry the larger plain Moleskine on a 6-week backpacking trip into California's Sierra Nevada, but keeping it handy on the hike required a setup that wasn't practical so I doubt I'd try that again. As for a writing utensil, a black BIC pen and a mechanical pencil is all I need.
- Do you find yourself favoring a particular season over another when going on these hiking trips?I spent 24 years of my life living in California, a place that has very subtle seasons, especially in Southern California. Some Californians argue that California doesn't have seasons, or, as the joke goes, 10 months of summer and 2 months of autumn. When I began to hike and pay close attention to the plants growing on the sides of the trail, I could see how nature changed over the course of the year. When I moved to Oregon a few years ago - a place that has much more defined seasons, the changes were even more obvious. I love hiking all the times of the year to see these changes. To see how the bare deciduous tree in winter will start budding in spring, will be covered in a green jacket of leaves by the summer, and change colors in the autumn. Of course, it is a lot easier to hike in the summer months than it is in the winter. If I had to pick a favorite season, it would have to be autumn, when the trees are alive with color and the mushrooms are popping up through the duff.
- What have been some of your favorite sketches or pages within your journals?When I consider my favorite aspect of my journals, I look at the page as a whole. Those page spreads that are esthetically pleasing to the eye, where the sketches, writing, and other additions to the page come together. I make an effort to plan my pages to a certain extent, thinking about how and where my sketches, maps, postmarks, and writing will fall on the page. There are some aspects of the page that few might understand but brings my joy to be reminded of. For instance, if the page is dirty and the writing scuffed, I would recall that was because the day was hot or I had worked up a sweat. Thinking of that brings me right back to that moment on the trail, and hopefully my writing and sketches help me recall what I had been seeing or feeling. This is why I keep journals, to capture moments in hopes to recall later.
- Are your journals used only to document outside adventures and hikes, or are they used in other ways as well?It depends on the project or the trip. I begin writing a travel journal to capture the planning stages of a week-long trip overseas and, after the journey, I take a week or so fill in stories that didn't get a lot of time or ink otherwise. In 2009, I created the 100 Hikes Project where I resolved to hike one-hundred times in 240 days. I kept a journal filled with notes and sketches from the hikes as well as information such as locations, trails. and distances hiked. I'd also write down hiking trails and itineraries, a wish list of sorts, when I heard or read about them, so the book would always be added to, on the trail or otherwise, during the project.
I have hiked a few thousand miles in the last six years and I cannot recall a time where I did not have my journal with me. It has become an essential piece of gear when I hit the trail. I don't always write in it when I hike, but it's nice to have just in case I think of something worth writing down. Sometimes I don't make the time to write because I'd rather spend the time pursuing other aspects I enjoy during a hike, like photographing the scene or simply being in nature.
- Where are your travel journals stored at the moment?I used to keep all of my journals in a cabinet near my front door. I used to joke that I kept them there just in case a fire broke out and I had only a moment to grab my most valuable possessions. (There is some truth in that.) Since I've moved quite a bit in the last few years, most of my journals are in boxes, packed well in plastic to protect them yet easily accessible if I need to get to them. My more recent journals are on the shelf. I access them often since they include data such as trail distances, conditions, if wildflowers or mushrooms were flowering, etc. Information that helps me plan future hikes.
- How has hiking and documenting your adventures changed since back when you began?For one, I've become more in tune with nature. I attribute this mostly to my unquenchable curiosity but documenting these hikes have helped greatly as well. My spiritual growth was very powerful when I began traveling internationally 13 years ago, but like growth spurts of a teenager growing into an adult, my spirituality became the norm in life. My oldest journals have my written thoughts on these powerful revelations about myself and my spirituality, but now it is the unspoken backdrop to all that I am and do. I do feel like I'm a much happier person despite the dark moments in our recent history, some which are still developing. I always feel that I have room to grow as a person. I have my struggles, just as everyone else does, but I've learned to work towards becoming better without being worried or anxious. A journal helps me define where I am and, more importantly, where I want to go in life.
- What advice would you offer for anyone looking to start keeping their own sketchbook or travel journal?
It doesn't matter what type of journal you keep or what medium you use to write with, but what does matter is that you keep them with you when you travel. A journal can be something much greater than a photograph or a relic purchased on a trip. It captures your words in your handwriting, moments that can fade from memory in time but kept in ink for much longer. Long enough for future generations to look through and, hopefully, learn more about you.
- Other than journaling and hiking, what are some of your other hobbies and interests?
Although many of my passions are rooted in hiking and journaling - like mycology, entomology, ornithology and local history - I also like good beers, enjoyable films, and time with my friends.
Thank you so much, Kolby, for giving us a glimpse into your travel journals! And for all you wonderful readers looking to connect, you can find Kolby here: