Saturday, August 2, 2014

What’s on your phone? (And where should you take it?)

Posted By on Sat, Aug 2, 2014 at 2:45 AM

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Even the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes that a smartphone is more than just a phone. It’s a filing cabinet, picture album, camera, video recorder, handheld computer, GPS … well you get the idea. Sometimes it’s even used to (gasp!) make phone calls.

Apps for the outdoors are all over the place. They'll help you monitor your fitness workouts, track your mileage, let you compare your treks with friends, and much more.

So what’s on my phone? I’m not one to use these apps on a regular basis, but I have many of them and occasionally try them out.

If you’re looking for a trail to hike/run/bike, try the AllTrails app (though I’ve found it to not always be accurate). The MyTracks app is nice and simple if you want to keep track of how far and where you’ve gone, but if you want to be part of a community there are the MapMyHike/MapMyRun/MapMyRide apps, or the Strava app, to get you connected with others on the trail. People can even follow your progress on the trail, while you’re on the trail, with the Glympse app, but you will need a constant 3G/4G signal, which isn’t always available out there.

The GPS Essentials app puts most of the information available on a GPS unit on your phone, while geocachers may like the CacheMate app. And if want to report trail problems or something that needs attention in one of our city parks, the GoCoSprings app will get the attention of the responsible people.

These on-demand apps are very handy, but they come with limitations. Many of them run in the “background” on your phone, meaning they’re still working even if you don’t have the app open, and may drain the phone’s battery at a much faster rate than usual. It may not be a problem if you’re taking a short hike or ride, but these apps may kill your battery if you’re on a longer outing, rendering your cell phone useless. A dead battery may be at the very least, an inconvenience (you can’t call your friends to meet you for a beer after your trek), and it can also keep you from calling 9-1-1 if you get lost or hurt.

But don’t let that stop you from keeping your apps; just carry an add-on rechargeable battery. Portable, pocket-sized charging stations come in different sizes and allow you to recharge your phone battery on the go, and some of larger models hold enough power to allow you to charge your phone more than once. 

Now I want to switch gears with some trail tips. I'll try to include a couple of these in most every post I write for this blog.

Have friends or family visiting from lower elevations that want to hike while avoiding altitude sickness? Try these easy “flatlander” friendly trails:

1. Lower Columbine Trail, North Cheyenne Canon Park: This trail starts at the Starsmore Discovery Center at the base of Cheyenne Canon and follows North Cheyenne Creek until the Mid-Columbine trailhead (approx. 1 mile). The trail passes by large rock formations and a small picnic area. Make sure to stop in the visitors center and see the displays too.

2. Palmer Trail, Garden of the Gods Park: From the northwest corner of the Kissing Camels parking lot, take the crosswalk leading to a trail that winds through a forested area on the west side of the rocks. You’ll eventually end up at the south end of the park. Highly recommended in late afternoon/early evening, when the sun turns the rocks bright orange.

Bob Falcone is a firefighter, arson investigator, non-profit board president, college instructor, photographer, hiker and small business owner whose lived in Colorado Springs for 23 years. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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