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Overlook Trail hikers notebook offers ‘slice of humanity’

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Make the trek to the top of the Overlook Trail and you are treated to a terrific view and the chance to take a minute to write down whatever’s on your mind.

“My feet hurt.”

“I didn’t trip once.”

And “I’m proud of myself,” are all recent entries in the Hikers Notebook, a spiral-bound treasure trove of thoughts sitting on a stone bench in a plastic box complete with pens and the invitation “Share Your Thoughts or Just Sign In.”

And people definitely do. “Moving to L.A. Dust on sneakers to take a bit of Sonoma along.”

“Went skinny dipping last night and hiking today,” followed by four girls’ names and, “The view is beautiful but not as beautiful as the girl next to me.”

Some leave thoughts for the random reader to ponder. “How can the country be so divided among all this beauty?” and “If you are reading this – you are enough, you are beautiful. Keep going, you are loved.”

Someone who hiked during a recent Sonoma Stompers game writes, “Watched the baseball game from up here. Funny how long after you see the batter start running you hear the sound of the bat – speed of light verses sound.”

Another hiker shares her sorrow, “Hiking in honor of my sister who suddenly left us.”

During June the notebook documents hikers from Georgia, Colorado (three separate visitors) Tennessee, Florida, the Virgin Islands, New York City, Arizona, Connecticut, Germany and Switzerland. There was also a hiker from Khumjung, a village in Nepal. One would imagine he found the trail a mere slope compared to his homeland.

The month’s entries also hold a few political comments and biblical references, because isn’t that just the way the world works?

Roy Tennant is a volunteer trail steward who has been hiking the trail every day for almost a decade. He writes blog entries about his thoughts and findings on the trail’s website, overlookmontini.org, and for its social media pages. He’s now read all 23 of the filled hikers notebooks and is writing about the most interesting comments for the blog.

“I wondered what we were doing collecting all these if you are not going to share some of the entries,” he said. “I’ve been plowing through them and photographing the most interesting pages.” He started in March and said “the vast majority express gratitude and encouragement.” Since the writers have not given their permission for their words to be printed names are not shown in the photographs of pages included in the blog. (Names are also not included in this story.)

“It’s very interesting and hugely gratifying,” he said about the project. “It’s wonderful to see how much people appreciate the trail.”

He said that both children and adults have drawn pictures in the notebooks, and one of his blogs includes what he considers to be the best artwork. He said there is also poetry, some original and others as quotes from famous poets.

“I equate it to sitting beside a stranger on a plane. It’s a situation where you feel safe and you can write about anything,” Tennent said. People have written about death, divorce and other losses, although the majority of entries are upbeat. He’s read entries from hikers who live as far away as Australia and Japan.

Tennant wrote in blog about what he’s discovered: “I found that the people who hike this trail cover a lot of ground — from kids forced by their parents to take a hike they didn’t want to take, to teenagers and others coming up the hill for purposes other than exercise or the view (cough!), to those seeking solace after loss and heartbreak, to those inspired to spend some time drawing, or creating poetry or recalling quotes that were meaningful to them. And then there are those who feel inspired to look beyond themselves to encourage others, or to provide messages of hope and renewal. In other words, pretty much a complete slice of humanity and all of our drama, but with a significant skew to the positive.”

The majority of the Overlook Trail fans are locals, including those who have recently returned.

“Back home for summer. Favorite place on earth right here,” was presumably written by a college student, and perhaps another younger hiker wrote, “Dope hike. Dope view.”

Last week a woman shared that she made the hike to celebrate her birthday: “So grateful to be on top of the mountain today,” she wrote.

On the next page her daughter wrote, “She’s 51,” because apparently there are no secrets above the Valley of the Moon.

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