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The Journals: Kolby Kirk's Pacific Crest Trail - Explore

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The Journals: Kolby Kirk's Pacific Crest Trail


Kolby Kirk's first travel journal was a small, ringed, 3x5 notebook that he bought in Paris at the beginning of a 77-day European backpacking trip. The journal's original purpose was to record things Kirk needed to remember — lists of cafes, addresses, names of hostels. By the end of his trip, however, he had written over 600 pages about his life-changing journey through 14 countries.

"I can see the growth I had. I went from writing notes to full sentences, to full paragraphs, to pages."

Kirk's notebook had become more than a log of handy information. It was soon his confidant, a fellow traveler.

"That journal was a good friend of mine," Kirk said. "It was the most cherished thing I brought home."

Kirk has since become an avid backpacker of the woodsy, backcountry sort — last year he hiked 1,700 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from Campo, California to Etna, California — and also quite the journal snob — he only uses Moleskin Classic Pocket Plain Notebooks.

"I just really haven't found anything else that works better for me," Kirk explained.

But as they say, you should never judge a book by its cover. It's what's inside that counts, and Kirk's notebooks contain an intricate collection of moments and an illustrative, lively display of his PCT journey. There are five total, each one filled with sketches, dried flowers, postmarks, smears of dirt and blackberry juice, stickers, and beer bottle labels. 

"Journals are so great because they capture so many layers," Kirk said. "And sometimes you're the only one who can make out those layers."

Kirk's journals are livelier since his Europe endeavor, but are still regarded as keepers of the things not to be forgotten. 

"I'm always worried that what I'm experiencing, my memories, won't hold."

To preserve the record of his wanderings, Kirk scanned each page of his notebooks. On his website, thehikeguy.com, selected pages are displayed, allowing readers to explore the wild of the PCT as Kirk did. KolbykirkPCTjournalpage

The excerpts are only a small piece of the journey, however, for viewers and for Kirk.

"I came home with over 850 pages and I didn't even write down a sliver of what happened to me," he laughed. "Four months later and I'm still writing about the PCT."

Kirk has since moved to Bend, Oregon, and not being one to journal at home — "it doesn't seem interesting enough to write down" — he is waiting for his chance to get back to the trail. 

"If the funds come together I'd love to spend more time in the Sierra."

Moleskin in his pocket, Kirk will undoubtedly find the trail leading there.

--Lauren Pope / photos courtesy of Kolby Kirk (thehikeguy.com)

This post is part of a three-part series, which profiles adventurers who traveled along iconic long-distance hiking trails in North America, documenting their experiences through unique and extraordinary means.

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