Snowshoe & Winter Journaling: Why & How To Keep An Outdoor Journal

“This was [a] real adventure, snowshoeing into deep winter. And I was relieved that I was getting along so well on my snowshoes. I had read of agonizing cramps from them. But Bill said that was from walking too tensely. So when I grew tired, I walked with an extreme loppiness, and that rested me.”

On December 21, 1944, Florence Page Jaques wrote this journal excerpt in her book Snowshoe Country. This wonderful book takes the reader on a journey by a married couple that spent a winter in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota back in the middle of the twentieth century. The entire book is written in a journal format and tells a peaceful adventure story.

journaling at table

Journaling after a snowshoe adventure. Photo: Jim Joque

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Why Should I Journal?

Journaling is not usually published work. Most often, a journal is a personal and private record of your ideas and experiences. Just as each person is different, each person’s journal will look different as well. So your journal most likely will look different from mine. As an avid snowshoer, I document my winter snowshoe adventures in a hardbound journal. For me (and for others), journaling can be:

Creative

Journaling can often be an opportunity for creative expression. Thus, I usually write in a story format and will, on occasion, add in some poetic flair. In your entry, you may choose to include all the details, feelings, and images from your outdoor adventure. Or, you can use your experience to create new fictional adventures in your journal. It’s your choice.

Reflective

Alternatively, journaling can include information for future reference and reflection. Write down where and when you went on your snowshoeing outing. Add in details of the length of your hike, elevation gained, and sights explored to your journal. For example, I will consult my journal when planning future hikes and trips, and I often enjoy reminiscing when looking back on past adventures.

Historical

Furthermore, I find journaling to be a record for any interested future readers. My father gave me his journal stories from World War II air combat and prisoner of war experiences. It’s a personal treasure that will go down in our family archives for generations. Granted that my snowshoe adventures do not compare with my father’s heroic stories, but they may be of interest someday to my grandchildren with whom I snowshoe.

snowshoeing with grandchildren

Author Jim Joque with his granddaughters on Rib Mountain in 2003

Observational

The assignment of keeping a journal is a component of my college snowshoeing and backpacking courses. Typically, I encourage my students to keep journals, not only to excite them about recording their summer and winter adventures but also to help enhance their observational writing skills.

Enriching

Journaling can be an enriching activity for people of any age, whether a senior recounts their snowshoe outing or a child.

In fact, introducing children to outdoor journaling at an early age teaches them valuable skills. Learning to observe and record nature and outdoor events in a journal starts kids on a life-long activity of documenting information. It is a skill they can take with them into adult life. Imagine reading excerpts from your childhood journal about a snowshoeing adventure you and your family made to an exciting park many years ago. Those memories become a treasure.

Read More: Letterboxing: A Good Old Fashioned Treasure Hunt

How Do I Keep A Journal?

Even though journaling has many methods, typically, there is a similar pattern for documenting ideas and experiences.

Frequently, keeping a journal includes recording specific data and observations, documenting accounts of an activity or event, or writing detailed thoughts, feelings, and ideas in a story, poetry, or song.

If you like symmetry, a journal can be consistent and patterned. An example would be to record the date, location, weather, and temperature consistently for each entry. For an asymmetrical approach, go for the more carefree style of creative writing with a surprise on each page.

photo of a journal

A journal can be a way to store memories, either through a symmetrical or asymmetrical approach! Image by CharuTyagi from Pixabay

Alternatives To Writing

Writing, however, is not the only approach. Keeping a journal can be more than written expression. Alternative or combined ideas for journaling can include:

  • using sketches
  • making a scrapbook of memorabilia or artifacts
  • organizing a photo album or tray of slides
  • presentation of your adventures

Whatever your approach to journaling, it all begins with developing a keen sense of awareness of the outside world around you. Add to that having good observation skills, selecting a methodology of recording, and systematically or creatively expressing yourself, and you can be a successful journalist.

I tend to reference specific details in my journals. I often include descriptions of location, landscape, views, weather, wildlife, and natural observations, as well as interesting events or exciting adventures. For my snowshoeing entries, I often include information about the snow, trails, and the specific snowshoes I am using on a given outing.

Reference To Get Started

Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth is a useful reference on journaling to get started. The authors define nature journaling as “the regular recording of observations, perception, and feelings about the natural world around you.”

This book offers the basics of developing a journal and goes beyond written expression by emphasizing the value of journal sketching. After combining the basics with sketching, they take the reader journaling through the four seasons in a unique and creative way.

All-Season Journaling

Even when the winter and snow season have come to an end, you can continue journaling your spring, summer, and fall outdoor adventures, warming up your pen for next season’s snowshoeing entries. Year-round journaling will prompt you to get outside more, not only to enjoy the fresh air and seek adventure but also to help bulk up your journal.

In an episode of public radio’s Prairie Home Companion, storyteller Garrison Keillor explained why many people pursue exciting outdoor adventures. He said the reason is so they have a good story to tell. I recommend you record those adventures so you will not forget to mention the details of your stories.

winter camping trip

Warming up before setting up camp on a winter trip in the Sylvania Wilderness. A great trip to add to your journal! Photo: Jim Joque

Journal Your Next Outdoor Adventure

During a winter camping and snowshoeing adventure in the Sylvania Wilderness Area of Upper Michigan, I wrote in my journal, “I set up my tent near a tall hemlock, and among some other smaller trees. I made a path in the snow that went to our kitchen area, made up of a pan for a pan fire and my single burner stove. After piling about a foot of snow around my tent, I planted my Northern Lites snowshoes upright in the bank. It looked pretty inviting.”

Later that night, after a small campfire and supper, “I returned to the golden coals of my pan fire to catch the last rays of heat before crawling into my winter shelter. Changing into all dry clothes, I crawled into my cozy sleeping bag and listened to the voices of students at a distant campsite until falling fast asleep.” This was the end to a perfect night and to a perfect winter camping story.

Do you keep a winter or all-season journal? What do you enjoy about it? What are your favorite ideas to write about in your journal? Let us know in the comments below!

Read Next:
Winter-spiration Book List: Books To Inspire Winter Outdoor Adventures
Snowshoeing Through 25 Years: Reliving My Journal
Unique Adventures

Updated March 2020 to include additional links & format changes

 

About the author

Jim Joque

Jim Joque

Jim Joque is a Midwest writer on snowshoeing, backpacking and canoeing. He retired from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point as director of disability services and adjunct adventure education instructor, having taught snowshoeing, camping, backpacking, adventure leadership and Leave No Trace.

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