Drawing of watercolor sketching gear

How to make a drawn logbook while hiking

Using a sketchbook to draw stories when hiking can be an alternative to taking photos

By Frits Ahlefeldt. Hiking.org

Drawing from a moleskine sketchbook, from a hike
Drawn logbook, sketching along the trails


Video, photos and notebooks, there are many ways of recording and making a logbook from the trails. One of them is making a drawn logbook, with sketches from the adventure. I’ve been working with drawn logbooks for many years, and here are a few of the things I have learned. And I few examples from the drawn notes I’ve done along the trails

Drawing of watercolor sketching gear
Classic logbook sketching gear: watercolors and brushes

Drawing gear – keep it light and fast

Give up bullet points to watch the stars instead

PowerPoint vs Nature – what give the best understanding?

Text and drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

Global reality today is mostly flat and presented in bullet points, using a software program from 1990 called Microsoft PowerPoint. If it’s science, culture, art, global warming, sustainability, design, innovation or business management, or strategy – the presentation of it, where-ever this take place, can be spelled ppt –  short for PowerPoint

Drawing of a presentation about the amount of powerpoint presentations
PowerPoint about PowerPoint about…

PowerPoint could easily qualify to be the most boring kind of theater ever developed during the last 100.000 years. A form of mono-storytelling, shown in repeat, in endless hours, in endless meeting rooms, dim-lit conference rooms and hotels all over the globe.

Could it be that at any given moment today, more people on this planet look at boring PowerPoint presentations, than at nature, including sunsets, mountains, trees, rivers and drifting clouds?

30.000.000 PowerPoint presentations every day in 2001

In 2001 a conservative estimate by Microsoft itself, calculated the global daily dose of PowerPoint presentations to be around 30 millions. Since then there is good reason to believe that this number has exploded. Because if we look at the accumulated amount of smart-boards, projectors, PowerPoint fancy communication-specialists, and ppt software distributed to everything from kindergartens to universities, to companies,  to community houses… smartphones and tablets, it adds up in a very scary way.

Amount of PowerPoint Presentations in 2017

Today nobody really seems to know, care or have enough guts to estimate a 2017 number of how many or much time we humans spend looking at a PowerPoint based reality. The real reason might be that it will simply be to scary for us to realize how most of the global decisions and understandings today are framed by and into this extremely simplified and distorted flat reality.

Back to the Community Campfire

drawing of a camp fire
The camp fire

But there is an alternative, a very old alternative, using one or more of three magical ingredients: a fireside, a community and storytelling. It is a technique where imagination, twilight and improvisation combine under the stars to make stories come alive in a very different way.

It works, but unfortunately very few places still keep these storytelling traditions alive today. Very few of us can still listen to stories under the stars and even fewer can scramble together and light up a few pieces of wood at night, without either getting busted by the local fire-patrol, because the danger of all engulfing climate-change sparked wildfires, or simply because the cabin’s fireside has been replaced by a microwave oven, for speed, safety and convenience.

“But why – isn’t it better to connect to each other and the planet? ” – Well there is most likely a PowerPoint presentation you can watch close by, that will go over it, step by step, using words like win-win, lean, core competence and performance optimization – explaining it all, till you give up in bullet points.

Replacing bullet points with stars

The solution instead, could simply be to leave the screens and projects, at least sometimes, to go outdoors and replace every bullet point with a star – a real one, many times larger than the sun, ten thousand light years away – and right over our heads.

Paths and storylines

Hiking storytelling trails and lines

Note on storylines, songlines and trails. By Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

There is a strange connection between storytelling and walking, a strange connection between how we follow lines of words through the landscapes in books and in stories, and the lines of trails, that connect the places of meaning out in the landscapes

The aboriginals ( Australia ) Should still have one of the most advanced human understandings of this connection, an very ancient understanding that maybe is more like a poetic, 4D dimension, that has been largely erased elsewhere in modern times. The aboriginal stories, their movement through them, and along their trails and the recreation of their landscapes are apparently one, or somehow connected and need to be reconnected constantly in this dimension, through song, dances and poetry, that only few, if any outsiders understand.

The English writer Bruce Chatwin did his best, he traveled for years all over the world, and researched nomadic cultures and their ancient narrated trail-storylines and traditions, in a research project he called “The Songlines” , and he scribbled it all down as a moleskine wrapped matrix of notes on walking,  ley-lines, nomads, their trails and their storymaps of understanding, written into the trails and places as landscapes of poetry.

In 1987 Chatwin published his legendary book about walking and these lines, it’s called The Songlines.

This quote about how the Aboriginal Ancestors made these story-trail-lines should be from it ( I lost my own worn out copy of Chatwin’s Songlines book, somewhere long ago ) so I’m not 100% sure, but here it is :

“He went on to explain how each totemic ancestor, while traveling around the country, was thought to have scattered a trail of words and musical notes along the lines of his footprints, and how these Dreaming-tracks lay over the land as ‘ways’ of communication between the most far-flung tribes.”  

Bruce Chatwin – The Songlines

Note to self: I need to find out much, much more about this, and get a new copy of the book…


Walk to think

Great thoughts come from walking

Text and drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

Drawing of a man walking while thinking I walk therefore I think
I walk therefore I think sketched thought from my drawn hiking notes today

“I think therefore I am” said the french philosopher Rene’ Descartes, but other philosophers saw it differently: They walked to think

A few examples: The German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, (1844 –1900) wouldn’t trust any thought that didn’t come from walking, he walked for hours most days, sketching up his notes, and thoughts, as they appeared along the way. And as Nietzsche famously proclaimed:

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking”
Friedrich Nietzsche

The Greek philosophers took it a step further… (A step further – our language and thoughts are filled with these walking metaphors – with good reason )

One of the first higher education institutions in the world – in ancient Greece, more than 2000 years ago (founded around 335  BCE by Aristotle )  were called: “Peripatetic schools” – which can be translated to “of walking” or “given to walking about” – and that is just what these wise old philosophers did more often than not, and how they tought: They walked to figure out reality and occasionally talked about their findings,  maybe because they realized it was the smartest and fastest way to understand and gain insight, beyond learning.

Diogenes was a more or less barking mad old Greek celebrity philosopher (412 or 404 BC – to 323 BC.) and one of the most famous  examples of how walking can be used as an answer.

Diogenes drifted around Greece and other places around the Mediterranean Sea most of his life, wondering about this world and what he experienced, sleeping and eating where-ever he happened to be – He even made up the word “Cosmopolitan” according to the legend, to describe himself.

When confronted with thoughts about what was real ( Zeno’s paradoxes )… Diogenes famously just got up and started to walk away… and maybe, seen as an answer, that might be considered one of the earliest documented examples of “Show it, don’t tell it”

Storytelling hiker

The Storytelling hiker – walking to tell stories

Drawing and text by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

Drawing of a woman walking with notebook and pen, writing
Storytelling hiker, walking to write

Hiking bloggers, travel journalists, writers and other storytellers use walking and hiking to tell stories. And in strange ways storytelling and hiking are both about following and connecting experiences and life to lines and landscapes, either as stories or as footpaths. Sometimes even as both

The storyteller hiker is part of the Hiker types collection

Using powerpoints from last year to talk about the future

Hard to find new trails when we all just sit and listen to the same worn out Powerpoint presentations

Text and drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

drawing of powerpoint presentation about the future
PowerPoint presentation concerning the future

I’ve seen a lot of Powerpoint presentations about the future, but not that many from people who walk the talk, not that many of us who talk about what we personally do to face the challenges – instead the future seems to be all about trends, statistics and scenarios

From Climate change to the out over a vertical cliff 58% percent biodiversity loss, to lack of thrive, to the sky rocketing amounts of psycho pharmacy drugs, swallowed by a global stressed out + 7 billion human population, and flushed out through a billion toilets, straight into nature, to drive the still living species out there even more crazy.

The tendencies and trends all point to the conclusion that concerning the future – immediate action is needed. Like we need to start to do things differently right now, to start walking in new and different directions…   But nobody gets up – we all sit there in the dark and listen to the same alarming TED talks about the future, the bleak statistics and All Gore inconvenient, dusty truths scenarios… from a few years ago – still without moving our feet.

Watercolor of an old house

Sketching places and listening to stories

Doing watercolors along the trail

Note and watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

Painting, sketching and drawing is both a special way to see places and remember them better. But even more interesting, it will often also give you a very special opportunity to meet the locals and listen to their stories

Fireside Talks

Sharing thoughts with people from different trails of life

Different trails leading to a campfire
Fireside meeting

Text and CreativeCommons Drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

Sitting around a fireside, looking at the flames and sharing stories and thoughts with people from very different realities, people with different perspectives, life-experiences and backgrounds is very unique.  And the stories they tell often lingers on, for a long time as everybody hike on in different directions the next day… 

Walk the talk hikers

Walking outdoors while talking rediscovered

Logbook note. Text and CreativeCommons drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt

Drawing of two men walking while talking
Walking the talk – Free CreativeCommons Drawing

Coaches, therapists and teachers have known it for a long time: Walking while talking is a unique way to make progress in difficult areas, in difficult challenges, relationships or changes. But now the business world is starting to see this too. Why don’t take that discussion outside?  Walking along, letting the solutions, insights and understandings come naturally, one step at a time…


complain vs walking in silence

Walk and talk is a great concept… just not always

Walk and talk, two hikers, the last talking rain over the first
Walk and talk gone wrong…

Sometimes it is better just to be quiet and walk, letting the trail do the talking… 

Text and CreativeCommons drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt. Hiking.org 


Camera hiker

Becoming one with technology on the trails

Text and drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

Most of the time these days, when people out on the trails say: “wow, that is beautiful” it mean, I need to take a picture of that… and upload it.  A new type of hiker don’t even need to reach out for their camera… they have it mounted on their head, chest or backpack… and the camera is programmed to take from one to hundreds of new photos every minute…  of the trail, views, impressions or whatever come up along the trail


When these hikers come home they have a complete documentation of the hike, if it is a day hike or a few months long distance hike doesn’t matter. Trails like the Appalachian trail has been documented this way many times. So many that nobody is counting anymore, as more as more and more people are hiking with constantly picture taking cameras on their heads everywhere.

Afterward the whole experience can be re-tracked virtually, and all the special moments, views and places can be uploaded to the web and social media sites, so the hiking experience can be seen from anywhere on the globe either as stills or as a movie of connected images.

Google backpack camera 

Google are into the game as well, with special cameras where Google maps – street-view has become trail view.

Hiker with a robot on the back instead of a backpack
virtual hike research hiker

Hiking trails in places like Grand Canyon has already been 360 degrees documented with Google hired hikers, each carrying advanced equipment on their backs, with mounted cameras (15 of them)  pointing in all directions.  Check it out here Google street view trekker 

Hiking as a camera

What might this mean for the hiking experience?  And can a snapshot every few seconds capture the feel of the hike? Or will it merely distract the hiker from connecting to anything different than the social media reality most has left behind when they started out on the hike?

When wearing a camera you will most likely be interested in getting great images of the hike and focused on what you will be able to see on the screens back home, as the result for your efforts. Breaks will need to be taken somewhere, not only spectacular, but also with the right angle to the sunlight, not to blind the lens, batteries have to be checked regularly and all the equipment have to be warn so not to get in the way of the filming in windy conditions…  And more…

Hiking as a camera, with others

Whoever are with you will be likely to find themselves on the web in all kinds of situations, and whoever you meet or who cross the trail ahead of you. Not everybody fancy being recognized on the web, because they happen to meet a hiker with a head mounted camera.  And I can think of more hikers than not, who would hate to be hiking along a hiker constantly filming them on the trail.

Shutting off digital reality while hiking

At the other end of the spectra hikers a shutting off all their phones, tablets etc. when hiking, just to get a break, to enjoy silence, nature, the wind and feeling the sun. It is like hiking is heading in both directions at the moment… 360 full panorama digital documentation, becoming one with technology… or a break from exactly that.

Hikers and Heroes

On Storytelling, Trails and Dragons

Drawing of a little dragon
The Little Dragon got me thinking

Logbook, Frits Ahlefeldt, June 2015

That little dragon got me thinking, as I colored the drawing up…  I often hear trails  described as something to be conquered, like if the hikers are setting out, in the best Tolkien, Hobbit way, to meet the unknown out there, beyond the limits of the known world, to face the dragons

And when I hear and read the descriptions from hikers it really do look like a lot are setting out to do just that – But I think maybe the little dragon got a point. Hikers will have to conquer themselves – not the trails, to really make it.

If you just conquer the trail – maybe you miss the point