How To Blog DAILY While On Trail

Writing a blog post for every day you spend on trail is not for everyone, I’m well aware of that. But for those that are interested, this post is for you.

First off, why would somebody attempt such a time-intensive undertaking (on top of an already time-intensive undertaking like a thru-hike)? Well for the masochist and dedicated among us, I’ll explain my personal motivations. Leading up to my 2023 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, I dove deep into many blog posts on The Trek. My goal was to gain a deeper understanding of what the day-to-day on trail was like, in preparation for my own hike.

Google webpage suggestions kept feeding me articles by the same blogger who was posting almost daily in 2022 (apologies, I don’t remember his name). I gleaned more from his posts than any other blogger I came across. When I was accepted to be a blogger last year, I decided (on a whim) I would do the same. My top three reasons why are listed below:

  1. To pay it forward and share my experience with others. Ultimately hoping it would benefit someone else, in the same way daily blogs benefited me.
  2. It would be a good way to log the journey and my emotions to look back upon when I’m old and gray (rather older and grayer than I currently am).
  3. This last one I didn’t realize until I was already hiking, but it’s a great way to be present daily within your thru-hike and to reflect on the highs, lows, and unique events.

These seemed reason enough to give it the old college try (with little to no understanding of the logistics and efforts that would be required). More on that.

Content Creation

So how did I go about creating content? It was not pretty starting off (let me tell you).  In the beginning, each night I’d use my cellphone to type the blog post on the Trek WordPress website. I’d try to save my progress as I went along, but the AT doesn’t exactly have Wi-Fi. Sadly, several drafts were lost due to poor connection. Thanks to a suggestion by ‘Chiquita,’ this process evolved. I started using the “notes” application on my phone to type out the body of my posts. The next morning I’d proof read what I wrote for errors (sometimes effectively, sometimes not so much), and then I’d add photos and post it online. Boom, easy-peasy, right? Not quite.

The content creation itself was not so bad, there was plenty to write about. Between the sights and sounds of the trail, food, gear, weather, shelters, and stories, there was no shortage of things to discuss. Oh yeah, you cant forget about the people. Readers would tell me that ‘Rabbit’ and other tramily members were the “main characters” of my blog (they weren’t wrong). While hiking mid-day, I’d often think about fun ideas or topics. Dictating those ideas into my notes app saved time when hiking. Later at night in my tent, I could fill in the remaining details. All-in-all these creative writing assignments took about 20-30 minutes of my day and were the most enjoyable part of the process.

Photos and Editing

Lets state of obvious here, a blog would be pretty boring without pictures. Arguably, the better the pictures, the better the blog. I took a lot of pride in taking good photos. I probably took even more pride in editing those photos so they really ‘pop’. Some readers (shout out to ‘The tentman’), even went as far to say I should quit my career in medicine to be a photographer. As tempting as that sounds, I wont quit my day job. My process was was basically to have my phone handy (in my pocket) at all times and when an appealing photo opportunity hit my eye, I’d capture it. Some days were better ‘content days’ than others (im looking at you Virginia green tunnel) but I’d aim to take 10-20 photos a day.

Now editing those photos was an entirely different and time-consuming beast. I complained all the way up to New Hampshire because I would basically perform the same edits on every photo (over and over and over again). Boost brilliance, decrease highlights, increase saturation and vibrance, bump warmth, increase sharpness and definition, and add a little vignette (rinse and repeat). In New Hampshire while bemoaning this process to ‘Backed Up,’ he showed me I could copy my edits from one photo and then paste them to any photo I wanted (consider my millennial mind blown). This reduced my photo editing process from 15 minutes down to 3. Those edited photos i’d add to my favorites folder for easy access when uploading. You also don’t need a DSLR to take good photos. My iPhone 12 Pro did just fine with taking and editing photos. Charging however, after the phone took a swim in a creek was a different story. Im contemplating a photo editing post in the future, stay tuned.

Uploading

Uploading posts and pictures to the wordpress site was the least enjoyable part of my day. One, its entirely dependent on your cell phone service capabilities. Verizon worked decent-ish for me in most locations (good luck if your cell provider is T-Maybe). But in certain locations, just resign yourself to the fact that you’ll be without any service for several days (cue 100 mile wilderness). When you do have service, the copy-paste of content from your notes is fairly straight forward. Its uploading the photos thats the time consuming part. For me, a photo would take 1-5 minutes each depending on how many bars I had. At a hostel with Wi-Fi you’re Gucci, but out in the woods (may the odds be ever in your favor).

Engagement

At the end of the day, you wouldn’t be writing a blog if you didn’t want anyone to read it (otherwise its called a diary). Outside of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to draw people to your blog, the best way I’ve found is with a clickbait title. Some of my favorites were:

Each of these garnered at least 15K views, and some angry/disappointed readers once they got suckered in (Welcome! First day on the internet?). Hey its your blog, you might as well have fun with it right?

Total Time Commitment

So at the end of each day, what was my total time dedicated to this passion project? Down in Georgia, blog posts took in excess of an hour each day. That is ton of time when you consider all the other chores involved with a thru-hike. Between hiking, eating, socializing, and setting up/taking down camp each day, theres not much spare time left. Luckily I was able to whittle that process down to 30 minutes or so by the time I hit Maine. So did i sacrifice anything on my hike to blog everyday? Perhaps a little bit of sleep and a minor amount of socialization. I did most of my writing at night in my tent when I was alone anyways, so I didnt miss much. As I elucidated earlier, in my opinion it was time well spent. Sitting down to reflect on each days hike kept me in the moment, and well prepared (emotionally) by the time I hit Katahdin. Some people feel like Maine and the conclusion to their hike creeps up on them (and it definitely does).

But I felt process prepared me for the end of my hike. It kept my friends and family members abreast that my heart was still beating (at a walking average of 115bpm), and it created memories to look back on. And if we’re being honest (and I try to be), it was more important to me, for the blogs to benefit others. It was my way of giving back. My way of saying ‘thank you’ to the bloggers that I learned from (even if I cant remember your names). And if I was able to pay that forward, then it was worth it.

Anyways, thanks for listening to me ramble. Also if you want a ‘thank you’ photo shoot me your address in an email ([email protected]) and I’ll make sure you get one. Until next time stow aways  😉

Be sure to follow my Instagram for more shenanigans @Barkleycharles

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Comments 7

  • Ryan McGroarty : Feb 11th

    It was super fun following your progress last year. I was following you from the beginning. The photos were great and the stories as well. Thank you for all the great content and the inspiration to maybe attempt a thru hike myself one day. One question I have because I do not recall seeing it elsewhere, did Rabbit ever finish? Best of luck on your future adventures.

    Reply
    • Derek Witteman : Feb 11th

      Hey Ryan, thanks for following along. Yeah Rabbit finished maybe a week or so after me. We’re planning on another meet up at trail days this year!

      Reply
  • Michael Beecher : Feb 11th

    I have no intention of doing a daily blog, but still found your article interesting. Your time on your photos really pays off. With so much phone time I assume that you were carrying more than one big power bank.

    Reply
  • Marty : Feb 11th

    Derek – Thanks for posting this. I’m considering a blog, but wasn’t sure of the amount of effort. I enjoyed your trek blog from start to finish. The quality and the effort were obvious.

    Reply
  • Michael Beecher : Feb 12th

    Thanks to both you and ‘Backed up’. I have had my mind blown too with the copy edit function now that I have gone and had a look. I will definitely be using this on trail!

    Reply
  • Chris : Feb 12th

    I always wonder how much time a hiker spends putting together a blog of vlog, regardless of if it’s daily or weekly. And now I know, one of those answers. I appreciate the time and effort it takes to put together. I often wonder if I’ll attempt to blog or vlog my future hikes, and I come back to the thought that it would be nice to look back during my old age and see what I accomplished.

    “elucidated” I had to look that one up.

    Reply
  • Rushmore : Feb 15th

    It’s great seeing another post from you!!

    Reply

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