A smartphone app tracks a ride on Rhode Island’s East Bay bike trail. (Steve Fagen)
Before Kurt Andersen and I set out on a 33-mile bike trip in Rhode Island last week, he activated two apps on his smartphone, then double-checked the trail with online mapping software.
Once we set off, Kurt stopped a few times to take pictures, as well as to answer text messages from friends planning a kayak trip.
Later, he addressed his phone: “Hey, Siri – how far are we from the parking lot?”
Siri’s email response came: “You’re 4.8 miles from India Point,” which Kurt programmed to speak with a British accent.
You started exploring The Great Outdoors in the old school era, when you simply hopped on your bike and started pedaling, hit the trail carrying little more than a canteen, sock and compass, or put a waterproof chart on the deck of your kayak.
I used to be tech geared towards outdoor enthusiasts, but I’ve come to appreciate smartphones, smartwatches, and other electronic devices. Stupid humans help us navigate, check weather forecasts, call emergency help, or simply coordinate appointment strategies.
Frequent scenario: Our hiking group arrives at an unmarked fork in the trail. which way?
Typical responses: “I don’t know.” “Me too.” “I think we should head left.” “No, it must be a right turn.”
I’m inclined to suggest, “Let’s check the map” — but before I can fish out the paper guide out of the pocket, one of my buddies finds the right track on the phone app, and we’re off.
Which peaks have the best view? Visit alltrails.com, gaia.com, cairnme.com, avenzamaps.com or any of the dozens or more of our other mobile apps.
Thunder in the distance? Check out weather.com, wunderground.com, or the clime app to see if the radar shows a storm heading in your direction.
But, as Dylan famously sang, “You don’t need a weatherman to know in which direction the wind is blowing.”
The same goes for logical solutions. You don’t have to be a Sacagawea to find that a well-traveled, rather grass-covered path might be the way to go, or that the appearance of mosquitoes, cattails, and skunk cabbages means you’re headed toward a swamp.
My friends and I also joke that sometimes our best outdoor experiences result from inadvertently getting off the trail. As Tolkien wrote, “Not everyone who wanders is lost.”
On one of these occasions, while searching for a geological formation called Split Rock, we came across an enormous boulder that was split in two.
“there he is!” We screamed, and took pictures of our “discovery.” The formation we sought turned out to be a mile or so away. Did not matter; After comparing the photos later with the “real” Split Rock, we agreed our photos are much better.
On a more serious note, we once used a marine radio to call for help when one of our group’s kayakers encountered a medical emergency while paddling around Fishers Island.
I bring a smartphone on trips, mostly for photography, sometimes for navigation.
However, not all smartphone apps have to be useful – they can only be fun. The Relive apps activated while our bike was riding produced a video that combined the photos he took with an animated electronic line that tracks our path. I must say, it was pretty cool.
However, I am wary of the price you might pay for relying on cell phones – not just a dollar amount.
First of all, they can give unprepared outdoor adventurers a false sense of security, leading them to mistakenly believe that if they get lost, sprain their ankle, or run out of strength, they will simply have to seek rescue. wrong – wrong – wronged Nobody can help when the batteries run out or there is no mobile service.
Then, making non-emergency calls can be as annoying to other hikers as neglected sharks. That’s why most camp shelters prohibit their use.
Mobile photographers lining up to take selfies at almost every scenic spot are almost obnoxious. Some national parks have set up so-called selfie stations to control this practice.
My main concern about overusing the technology on the trail or in the water is that rather than providing a connection, it forms a barrier that blocks out many of the great nature sights and sounds. Part of the fun of being outdoors is watching the clouds drift away, the mist lifting, the sunrise, the sunset, the full moon; Hear the chirping of birds, the frogs chirping, the rustle of leaves, the creaking of trees, the crashing of waves, the gurgling of streams…
Much better than staring at a screen.
#hiking #biking #kayaking #complicated