Have you ever wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail? But, perhaps you’re just too lazy to get out and actually do it. Then again, it may not even be a matter of motivation, but due to the fact that you don’t have time because of job, family, time, or physical constraints. Well there is now an app through which you can experience a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail virtually.
Whatever the circumstances may be, a great new way to satisfy your curiosity of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail is available for iPhone users. A new app called Walk the Distance will connect to your iPhone’s pedometer and places you accordingly along the Appalachian Trail. You can track your progress as if you were thru hiking with 2,000 other people – a recent example of technology making its way into the world of thru-hiking.
It all started with a group of friends doing hypothetical footraces and using pedometers
It all started with a group of friends who were participating in hypothetical foot races, say between Detroit and the Windy City. But, in the beginning and before the existence of the app, this group of friends were using pedometers to track their steps and then doing all the calculations by hand in order to convert their steps into the corresponding mileage – which apparently, was not only a time consuming process, but a lot of work.
With the pedometer and through mathematical calculation, the friends could compete on a lighthearted level (or more serious if preferred) to see who is at the head of the pack in terms of distance and mileage. But it was a mother in the group that prodded her young engineer son to come up with an app for the process. And so, he did.
The Walk the Distance app
A software engineer by the name of John Zaccone, came up with this clever app at the behest of his mom. His app was able to track the hypothetical footraces automatically. But an entrepreneur’s work is never done and John thought that he could be more creative by imagining a better route to follow than say between Saint Louis to Denver (nothing against those places however). Therefore, he decided to code the Appalachian Trail, and voila … we have Walk the Distance.
Since debuting this summer, more than 2,000 people have downloaded the Walk the Distance app. Which means that to date, more than 2,000 people have done a virtual thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail – this is exciting because it is very close to the actual number of real life thru-hikers (2,272) who have completed the trail since the beginning of its existence almost five decades ago. And it goes to show that virtual hiking is on the rise.
Walk the Distance is available for iPhone and will soon be ready for Android
Don’t spend too much time fretting that Walk the Distance is currently only available for iOS. An Android version in the works and is expected to be ready sometime soon in 2020. There is a real health aspect to this app and connects to your iPhone’s Health app – making it a fun way to get in shape. And the app continues to measure the mileage you walk even if it’s not on.
The information is automatically translated and shows you your location on the Appalachian Trail map – as if you were actually thru-hiking the AT. Also, you have the ability to see see every other user on the same map – passing you by or getting passed by you. A goal of the developer was that this be used for a social experience.
You’ll get an idea of how long it takes to hike the entire Appalachian Trail
You may end up surprising yourself at the distance and ground you cover and enjoyed with friends, family, and strangers. Remember, there’s no replacement for doing the real thing, but not everyone has the time, money, or ability to hike the AT. And the app is a fun and novel way to connect with the trail and get an idea of how long it takes to hike through all 2,000 miles of it.
So even as someone who swears by the outdoors, and might never opt for virtual travel over the real thing, I still find it a fun and interesting idea and plan to download this app onto my phone and watch for fun how long it would take me to cover the Appalachian Trail. And truth be told, it sounds entertaining passing virtual signposts in the app which include shelters, scenic points, and trail-volunteer information. You can walk the first 150 miles of the trail free, after which it costs $3 to continue to the trail terminus in Maine.
John the developer is also currently working on coding the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Maybe he’ll end up doing many of the famous hikes around the world. It is interesting to note that on average, American adults walk up to 5,000 steps per day. In comparison, it would take a little more than 12,000 steps per day to walk the trail in a year.
This is the best way to Black Blaze (hike virtuality vs. actually following the White Blazes) the A.T.!