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Documenting A Trail

Our camera shakes as our hand tremors with exhaustion, sweat, and muscle cramps. We are positive that the humidity and heat from our hand has successfully fogged the lens. Tripping over a root, we bobble the camera, and by a stroke of luck, catch it before it shatters upon the hard rock underfoot. Yet, we continue to film, regardless of the lack of photogenic quality, lack of proper lighting, lack of stable footage, lack of canned meaningful quotes that are used to convey power and insight in films and instead ramble with whatever emotion, thought and feeling we are having in the moment. We film through the excitement, through the doldrums, through the bitterness, through the flavor of each day spent out in the elemental world. To change this would mean to become less than real. It would mean to lose what we hold most dear, the authenticity of humanity inside of a singular moment. It would mean we were no longer filming our thru-hike but instead now filming a scripted "movie", a curated image, a systemized soul, a planned purgatory of our own making. So, instead we film, film the "errors", film the absurdities, film the rambles, film the unpolished, film the raw, because for us that is what it means to document a trail.

 

Document the crooked horizon, document the confused look in the eyes

Document the terrible lighting and glare in your eyes

Document the truth in a moment.

 

Before, we get to heavy into metaphor and description, let us first set aside a quick disclaimer. These are our emotions, our opinions, our beliefs around our own personal feelings, by no means are we laying our own feelings on other filming styles. We know others that film their hikes in their own styles, and that is wonderful, a great medium that they have found that they enjoy and that works for them. Documenting a personal journey, is just that, you are documenting your own personal journey. That means whatever you wish it to portray, to look like, to feel like, to sound like, is the correct way, because it is your own personal choice. Some people's favorite color is blue while others green. Some people enjoy action movies some enjoy comedies. Some people eat pineapple pizza and others are not depraved souls that are bound for eternal damnation, it is all the same. It comes down to personal opinion, which is neither good nor bad, they just are. Well besides people who eat pineapple pizza, those people are the epitome of true evil.


Now with the disclaimer out of the way, we can talk about how we chose to document a trail and what that means for us. A thru-hike is not meant to be a movie, nor an episode of your favorite sitcom, it is exactly what it says, a thru-hike. There is no script to be followed, no directors need to re-shoot the same scene over and over again, no cropping a certain angle because the portrayal is more powerful. At the very essence of what a thru-hike is, it is being in the natural world, being free. The camera already takes away from this medium, and we consistently feel conflicted over this fact. To make our hike into a scripted movie would to us mean to go against the very essence of what it means to hike. To be free.


So, we film. We film without edits. We film without filters. We film without audio corrections. We film in movement. We film in exhaustion. We film in absurdity. We film 10 minute plus lengths of completely irrelevant and immaterial rants, because well those irrelevant moments are the essence of a thru-hike. The essence of what our mind goes through when walking from sun up to sundown every day for months. Listening to the wind, the woods, the sky. To listening to weird podcasts and even stranger playlists of music. To listening to our own thoughts. To us everything that is considered the antagonist of "quality film" leads to the very truth of a accurately portrayed thru-hike. No camera angles besides the ones we find in the moment, no mocked scenes of us moving throughout the landscape, no structure is the very structure of how we chose to document the trail.

 

We film, take pictures as we hike. Usually in constant motion. Any less would be wrong (for us).

 

To capture a thru-hike in film quite simply is impossible. Impossible is not a word we use quite often, if ever, but trying to portray it through video is an insurmountable task. To do so would require a 24hr video feed that has not only audio and visual components but also taste, smell and touch. It would require the viewer to use all 5 of their senses consistently. It would require a level of feeling in every meaning of the word that cannot be brought purely through a visual medium. It would require the viewer to watch and feel the moments as we hike through the hours of silence, through the nights of shivering against the cold, feel the constant oil of sweat upon our shirt stick and rub against our skin for days, feel the pain in broken feet, feel the happiness upon a summit as the smell, taste, feel, of the air is compounded by every single second of the feelings prior in that day, that past month, that past months on trail. Suffice it to say, we can never hope to portray what we truly wish. Documenting a trail will always be inadequate in our opinion, but as for the levels of inadequacy, we do have some say over that.


If we are destined to be inadequate in our portrayal and documentation of a trail, let us be inadequate to the best of our abilities. Let us be inadequate in our every moment of authenticity, let us be inadequate in our stumbled words, let us be inadequate in our weirdness of thought, let us be inadequate in our "filming skills." The more we can harness and embody this inadequacy, the more adequate and complete we feel.


We have been hiking and revolving our life around hiking for more than half a decade now. Every year multiple months spent on trail. Escalating to this upcoming year, that possibly an entire year will be spent traveling, hiking, living life on trail. Through it all we have filmed. So, as the time comes closer to Hiking Season 2022 again, we begin to have the feelings we have every year. Confliction over once again filming an activity that is meant to be fully immersive in nature. Filming a activity that we can never fully express nor harness. Filming to help spread the love and passion that we find on the trail, but consistently failing to convey the feelings fully. Filming to portray the essence of a thru-hike and only ever being able to capture a fraction of a percent of the truth held within. Filming to document a trail, that can never be documented.

 

Is there something else? Something deeper than a documentary? Can it be reached?

 

So, why do we persist, when we are only ever destined for failure? What sane person would continue to feel so conflicted and continue the very activity that brings about such feelings? Well, to document a trail for us is so much more than the video or the article we write. It is the overwhelming feeling of joy, connection, and happiness we get to experience when we can share. Share the journey. Share the information. Share the feelings. Share the weird. Share the absurd. Share the fraction of a percent that we are capable of what it means to us to thru-hike, and still have an entire world of feeling within. It shows the power inside of a thru-hike, when even a tiny piece, can illicit an entire universe of emotion. To continue to film at this point becomes happiness in failure, it becomes adequacy in inadequacy, in becomes the whole in a fraction of a percent, it becomes a thru-hike.


Well, it feels like we have said much without any resolution. Honestly, that is the very essence of our feelings around this subject. Yet, if we must persist in creating a conclusion, let it be this, to document a trail is a wonderful and beautiful experience. If not just for you personally, but for your friends and family, for those you meet along the way, for those you have yet to know. There are thousands upon thousands of ways to do it, no way being the right or wrong way, but instead a voice, a personality found within each. For us we film everything we possibly can because it lets us feel the closest to the essence of thru-hiking. For others they want to tell a story through their videos and must edit to reach a cohesiveness. For others it may just be pictures. For others it could be articles. If we have but one conclusion from our irrelevant and immaterial rants, it would be document the trail. Document your steps, document your internal journey, document the connection, document the struggles, document the triumphs. You will never get the time back. Document your journey.


With Forever Conflicted Feelings,

Sincerely,

ElevenSkys