Trailjournals.com is an interesting web site for many reasons, not the least of which to me is the fact that it’s as popular as it is. When you open up the main page, it’s not particularly well organized, it’s horribly outdated in its technology, it doesn’t seem as if it’s frequently maintained, and yet it is without a doubt the most popular place on the internet for posting and reading about other people’s hikes, perhaps due to its perpetual simplicity. Look at the bottom of the front page– there are over a thousand registered users with over three hundred thousand journal entries. The “recently updated journals” bar on the right shows that people almost constantly update their journals, mostly from the Appalachian Trail but also the Pacific Crest Trail, Florida Trail, Long Trail, American Discovery Trail, and dozens more.
Reading these trail journals is sometimes frustrating because the writing ranges from one-sentence location updates to multi-page aimless rambles. Sometimes, though, I find some diamonds in the rough. Here are some of my favorites.
Uncle Tom’s 2010 PCT Trailjournal: I hiked with Uncle Tom off and on throughout the Pacific Crest Trail, and we live very close to each other in Maine. His journal of the PCT was, as far as I can tell, the most popular journal on Trailjournals.com during the entire summer, and with good reason. He writes at length about each day on the trail, but never gets boring about it. If you ever want to hear about the entire Pacific Crest Trail in an honest, engaging, and well-written manner, go to his trailjournal page and read it over the course of several days. And if you haven’t had enough by then, go subscribe to his blog, because I know he’s got some fantastic adventures lined up in the future.
Cumulus’s 2009 Long Trail Trailjournal: Maybe I just enjoy reading trailjournals of people who are older than me. Cumulus hiked the Long Trail in 2009, while I was mostly sitting at a desk and working in the office of the Green Mountain Club. This was his first major long-distance hike, and seemed like a chance in a lifetime for him. The entries are concise but get the point across, conveying the joyous simplicity of hiking. Since the Long Trail is much shorter than the Pacific Crest, reading through Cumulus’s trailjournal is much quicker than Uncle Tom’s. But they are similar in that they are a joy to read.
Samwise’s 2008 Long Path Trailjournal: I found this one the other day because I wanted more information on the Long Path, a long-distance trail in New York that I have wanted to hike for a while. In 2008, only a few months before Samwise started to hike it, I hiked the first eighty miles and quit due to a knee injury (I started the trail too quickly after a winter of low-mile hikes, something I’m a little worried about with the Long Trail this spring). Samwise made it almost to the end of the trail, then bailed out due to poor trail conditions in the northern end. I like this trailjournal not exactly for the same reasons as Uncle Tom’s and Cumulus’s, since the quality of writing starts out strong and starts to ramble as the hike goes on, but more because of the feeling. I could almost perfectly see the progression during the entries how Samwise went from optimistic and energetic to fatigued and worn out by the end. It’s a feeling I know all too well. In fact, it’s almost the same progression I went through on the same hike, although she made it much farther than me in that instance.
I don’t often read through trailjournals entries, but sometimes it’s nice if I’m looking for more information on less-traveled trails like the Long Path or the International Appalachian Trail. In other cases, and I think this is where most people come to Trailjournals from, it’s nice to just see the adventures unfolding as they occur while I’m waiting for my next adventure to begin.