Art From My Thru-Hike

From the beginning of my thru-hike in February 2021, I kept a sketchbook. Two, actually, because it seemed like a good idea at the time. One for journaling and pencil sketching, and one for watercolor. It was important to me to keep a journal and a sketchbook to remember the trail in a way that photos might not have captured, and to create art from the moments that were fleeting.

This proved to be a difficult task to maintain each week, as the trail tested me and exhausted me in every way each day. The goal was to create four drawings a week, and have a self-reflection every two weeks.

I ended up being socially distant (more like anti-social) for several weeks in the beginning, and I wish that I had drawn more of the people I encountered. Some are in photos, but to draw them felt intrusive while I wasn’t very close with many people for quite some time.

After finishing the hike, I am creating five large charcoal drawings that represent my trail experience, as well as working toward creating a series of postcards. Enjoy this sketchbook dump, and the post for the final five pieces commemorating this journey will follow.


Not very many days had extra time for drawing, so I had to carve out time intentionally for some sketches like this. I can specifically picture this moment with my friend Mothra. We stopped for camp at a stealth spot after our ambitions were too high and the freezing fog forced us to hunker down for the night.


A sunset is actually a rare sight if you camp at shelters, so catching one at the border of GA/NC was special and this watercolor sketch reminds me of that night. I spent a while drawing the tree that blocked the view as well, the next image.

The detail of this tree stood out to me, so after getting to camp early I had time to spend a few minutes studying and sketching the tree. Still unsure of what type it is but it was beautiful. This tree blocked the view of the sunset in the watercolor above. I’d merge them together but for some reason, drawing them separated seemed like the right thing to do.

Drawing items from day-to-day life on trail was something I aspired to do in the beginning of the hike, but as time went on those things seemed to become more mundane and uninteresting the more I became comfortable and dependent upon them.



Fires at night bring the community together. Warmth, comfort, chats, gratitude.

For now, I have two 18×24 pieces to share and more to come!

Squid at a shelter. It snowed a tiny bit.


Two hikers taking a mid-day nap on a hot day in New Jersey.


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Comments 9

  • Dottie Rust : Nov 4th

    Love your art! I do some art journaling, also beginning a nature journal.

    I think I commented to you once, about your “brief note on grief”. I volunteer with a new non-profit Umbrella Project Hike. UP offers hiking as a way to heal the grief felt from losing a loved one, we focus on hikers ages 18-25. I shared your brief note with UP committee members. UP is interested in using your note in UP literature. Only with your permission.

    Perhaps you could reply to my email?

    Best wishes,
    Dottie “.com” Rust

  • Maria : Nov 4th

    You’re a rockstar! Amazing art as always!

  • pearwood : Nov 4th

    Lovely, Amara!
    I just followed you on IG.
    I’m heading NOBO next February.
    Steve / pearwood

  • Petr : Nov 4th

    Thanks for this article Amara. I really like your visual interpretation of your AT experience. I am not interested in taking photos of my upcoming thru hike but wish would like to record with the same approach as yours. Like you yourself experienced I am wondering how I will discipline myself to create time to create on trail. Best wishes.

    • Amara : Nov 7th

      Good luck! 4 times a week was my goal, you just have to want it enough to actually stick to whatever you decide.

  • WD : Nov 7th

    What’s up Velcro! You never told me you were such a talented artist!!!! -WD

    • Amara : Nov 7th


  • Jonathan : Nov 7th

    So great! I always intend to draw when in a trio but rarely actually do it. The times when I do make the effort I always look back on with fondness.

    • Amara : Nov 7th

      I agree, the effort is worth it in the end but the intentionality is hard!


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