Today’s installment of my “what to do with all these blank books” series will focus on “trail maps.” This is something I first learned about taking a Nature Journaling class at Rhode Island School of Design. I then read about trail maps in one of my favorite books on keeping a journal, A Trail Through Leaves by Hannah Hinchman. (I’m sure that book will be the focus of its own post one of these days.)
Trail maps are a great thing to do if you’re going for a walk or a hike. I make a point of bringing very few tools with me, often just a pen, or maybe a little brush to push the ink around with. You don’t want to bring too much with you, basically what can be in your back pocket, or in your hand. The idea is to go along on your walk and make a map of the journey by noticing things along the way and stopping and drawing or writing about them.
Maybe you jot down a note about the beautiful birdsong you’re hearing, walk a bit, then do a quick sketch of a flower you’re passing by. Doing this adds another level to your hike. Now, granted, this isn’t good if you’re with someone who wants to keep moving, or if you’re trying to burn calories, but it’s great if you want to notice things you’d otherwise walk by. It gives you a great excuse to take your time, to pause during your hike when you see a little splash of color that you want to investigate, or if you see a small animal come into view that you want to watch. I like to try to meander across the page of my journal, so it feels more like a journey.
I’m not great at drawing, but I like the process of observing and taking the time to focus and notice things. That’s one of the reasons trail maps are so fun for me. Not only are you noticing things you’d otherwise walk past, but you’re also not pressured to draw the perfect fern, but rather just draw it quickly and move onto the next thing.
The two photos are from a hike I did on Kauai in January 2008. We did a few hikes on that trip, but the one during which I made this trail map is so much more memorable, I can look at it and be right back there at that overlook.