“Wow that photo is incredible!” Jessica commented, as we scrolled through some old pictures on my phone. “Where was that taken? It looks like such a fun hike. Is it far from here? Could I take the kids with me?”
“Umm…” I responded lamely. I wracked my brain for the answers to her questions and began to sweat. Was that in St George or Kanab? The trail’s name started with an S. I’m sure of it. Or was it a R?
Jessica looked at me with expectant eyes, but I knew I would never be able to answer her questions.
After talking to Jessica, I began sorting through old photos and memories and was shocked to find how many names, locations and details I could not recall. What was I supposed to do if someone asked for recommendations in the future? What if I ever wanted to go back to any of these locations again? What use is having adventures if I can’t remember them?
From that day on I started using a few tricks to record my adventures.
Trick 1: See and Snap the Signs
Everywhere I go, before I even start down the trail, I take pictures with the signs at the beginning of the trail, at the visitor’s center or any other signs I can find.
The main purpose of these pictures is to help me remember the name of the place. If I can remember the name, I can look up more information in the future, and have a name to give when recommending an adventure.
Signs will also have other important information that can be helpful to record in the future. Distance, difficulty level, rules, recommendations and other important tidbits are often included on these signs. That hike I went on last year may have felt like seven miles, but the picture with the sign reminded me that it was only five.
Trick 2: Keep a Record
The first thing I do when I return home from a new adventure is sleep. But, the second thing I do is pull out my adventure journal. This used to be an actual book, but I have recently switched to keeping digital records. The important thing is that I record these memories while they are fresh in my mind.
I ask myself, “what would I have liked to know before going?” I write down as many details as possible. I write down how long it took. I write down how difficult it was. I write down if taking the entire trail was necessary to get the best views. I write down who the adventure was appropriate for. Could my sister-in-law do it with her three kids? Would Ralph, the expert rock climber, be bored climbing at this location?
When I have all the pertinent information down, I write down the personal details from the adventure that I never want to forget.
I write about the very friendly chipmunk who came right up to me, took sunflower seed after sunflower seed out of my fingers, and stuffed his cheeks so full I thought it had to hurt.
I write about my brothers and I, and how we randomly decided to do high kicks in that beautiful flower field we passed on the way.
I write about how that one large rock looked like an alien space lizard, and how my husband dramatically pretended to be eaten by it.
And finally, when I am done with all my little anecdotes, I attach the pictures from my adventure to the journal.
Trick 3: Use Free Arenas to Organize
After keeping a journal for a few months, I began to find online tools that made it easier to organize my memories and recommend my adventure. Free Arenas is one of my favorite places to do this. Free Arenas has several great features that make it possible to keep a detailed record of your adventures.
The first feature I would like to mention is the arenas themselves. I have found several exciting recommendations there, but I have also been able to add a new arena when I have been somewhere that is not currently on the sight. I can add all the important information from my journals, and have it organized into an easily understood format for future use.
Often, the adventures I take already exist as arenas. The arenas already have pertinent information, but I can still add my two cents by reviewing the arena. I can mention how long it took me. How difficult it was for me. If it was worth my time. What I liked and disliked about it, and who I would recommend it for.
When I review an arena, it gets added to my travel log. The travel log is a list of the places I have been. It automatically shows me when I visited and what I rated the arena, making it easy to look back and remember names and details. I often visit the travel log when recommending my adventures or trying to remember where I would like to go again.
While having a running list of all the adventures I have been on is awesome, I like to use the My Places feature to keep more specific lists. My Places allows me to organize arenas into collections. I can create a collection of places I have been near St George Utah, or I can create a collection of places I want to visit again. I can create a collection of places that I would recommend to my friend Ralph, or my sister-in-law and her three kids.
The main reason I love keeping records on Free Arenas is that it’s easy to share information that I have already recorded. Unlike my personal adventure journal, Free Arenas is organized in a shareable format. I can share my collections, as well as individual arenas, when I want to give recommendations. I can do this on a wide scale using social media, or I can send the URL to just one friend. When my friends want to visit an arena or collection I share, they can see all the information I put in. Even if I don’t remember the answer to their questions, it is recorded in my review and in the arena information.
A few months ago, I sat with Ralph on my couch staring at the abundant mess of photos pinned on my wall.
“Look at those rocks,” Ralph whistled. “Where are they? Anything I would be interested in?”
“Yes actually. That was taken at City of Rocks. I went in the fall a couple years ago. Let me text you a link,” I said, pulling out my phone. Within a few seconds he had a link with more information than I could ever remember.
Later that evening, I pulled out my adventure journal, flipping through the pages until I found the City of Rocks. I ran my fingers over the pictures and read the stories I wrote. I read about how I shook with effort trying to climb the rocks that my husband and his siblings scaled with ease. I read about how I later sat at the bottom in the shade of a scrubby looking bush, watching my family scale the impressive structure around me. I read about how, while sitting there, I had a real conversation with my father-in-law for what seemed like the first time ever.
‘Yeah,’ I thought to myself, ‘I’d definitely like to go back.’