Cool tools for when walks go awry

My husband Chris recently said, “I’ve never in my life regretted going for a walk.” It’s a lovely sentiment, as it captures so well the essence of how I feel after a good walk, especially if I didn’t necessarily want to get off the couch in the first place. Since it’s such a well-put statement, I wish I were using it somewhere better than this entry.

Because nice as it sounds, it isn’t really true. This past weekend, he, and to some extent, I, regretted going for a walk. We’d been looking forward to a good couple of hours in Gambrill State Park in Frederick, MD. I suppose the walk itself turned out to be okay. The traffic getting there, however, was altogether a different story.

The trip took twice as long as it should have, though my over-zealous migraine medication had me in such a daze that I didn’t mind much. We momentarily considered bailing out and going for a walk nearer home, but decided to stick with it. Hurrah! We were bound for Gambrill!

Needless to say, our enthusiasm had dampened a bit by the time we arrived. Now of course, traffic isn’t the end of the world. But some days, it’s just entirely the right way to change the mood of an afternoon–for the worse. I jokingly told Chris that he should reserve judgment on the outing; if we hit traffic on the way home as well, then he had the right to be grumpy.

And then I learned not to make jokes like this, because the traffic on the way home made me grumpy too.

So what to do when a walk goes awry? Focus on cool tech tools. The pick of the day: MapMyHike. I am slow to the smart phone revolution (indeed, absent from it, as I still don’t own one), and most apps tend to be foreign territory to me. Luckily, Chris had recently indulged a lingering desire for a tablet, and he decided to bring it along with us.

Typically when we go to Gambrill, we take one of several routes to the Catoctin trail and follow it for a bit before turning back. This time we decided on one of Gambrill’s circuit hikes, opting for the Black trail. When you look at the map of our walk, you’ll notice some interesting squiggly lines that don’t have much to do with an otherwise well-identified loop. Right. That was our accidental venture onto the Yellow trail after we followed what must be one of the most poorly labeled trail markers ever. Being able to look back at this on the MapMyHike image made me feel a little silly, but it also had the entertaining side effect of making me contemplate planning hikes with the sole purpose of creating funny shapes on the map.

Screenshot from 2013-08-14 21_40_08

At any rate, the Black trail was much more open–sandier, rockier, lower trees–than the Yellow had been, with its more forested and closed-in feel. The sun was putting up a good fight, and lower trees on the first part of the Black trail helped it make its way down to us. We walked at an enjoyable pace and paused a few times to enjoy the sheer silence of the woods. The second half of the circuit includes a rather steep uphill section that made the trip into a good workout. According to MapMyHike, we climbed just about 500 feet over the course of a mile (no times over each mile are recorded electronically, although they are announced as you walk).


Other cool features of MapMyHike include the ability to create a route ahead of time (funny shapes, anyone?), create a log for workouts, track nutrition, search routes, find local information, and connect with others.

What I didn’t like about it was the startling voice that alerted us, at every mile, as to how much time had elapsed and what our average walking speed was. Though I like being able to track a route and look back over hill inclinations, I don’t want electronics talking at me in the middle of the woods unless they’re telling me the nearest escape route to flee a sloth of angry bears. The mute button gets my vote here.

Other related apps include MapMyFitness, MapMyRun, MapMyRide, and MapMyWalk.


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