Your mileage may vary

August 6, 2008

Apparently it was released a week or two ago, but I just came across a new Google Maps feature: walking directions.

It works like Google’s driving directions, except it maps out a more direct route using as many two-lane roads as possible.

Walking on roads isn’t my idea of a good hike, but the mapping feature is an interesting idea. It might have some good cycling applications, too, though I think is better suited for that kind of mapping.

Interestingly, as I investigated more about this feature I came across an article at, which said some people are expressing privacy concerns about it. But reading on, I discovered the writer is somehow mixing the StreetView feature with the walking directions feature.

It seems any new Google Maps add-on causes a slight stir with Internet users who are concerned about privacy. The Street View feature, which lets you see a 360-degree photo of the location you intend to visit and then view a succession of images as you travel the virtual route online, is well within legal limits, says privacy expert Mike Spinney from the Ponemon Institute, a think tank that studies privacy issues.

That confusion aside, I doubt there’s any legal grounds for this. I’m by no means a lawyer, but I know you can’t have the same assumption of privacy on your street curb that you have in your home.

A bigger concern should be a concern for Google’s lack of reasonable expectations for walkers and hikers.

I mapped a walking trip from my hometown to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where my younger son will start college in a couple weeks.

Walking directions to Ann Arbor, MI
543 mi – about 7 days 11 hours

Sure, that comes with a disclaimer.

Walking directions are in beta.
Use caution when walking in unfamiliar areas.

That doesn’t come close to warning you that hiking at this pace will kill you! Do the math. To walk 543 miles in 7 1/2 days you’d average just over 3 miles an hour — without stopping to rest, sleep, or eat.

I guess that qualifies for “unfamiliar areas.”


Let’s hope he knows what a black bear looks like

January 27, 2008
A Walk in the Woods
Bears that look like this don’t live on the AT. Only black bears inhabit that portion of the U.S. and this ain’t no black bear.

Robert Redford finally confirmed rumors that have been circling for a couple of years.

From the AP:

Redford told The Associated Press that his next film project is an adaptation of the best-selling 1998 Bill Bryson book about hiking the Appalachian Trail. He will produce the film and star as Bryson, and Barry Levinson is expected to direct it.

Part of rumor has been that Redford would reunite for this film with Paul Newman, but there’s no mention of Newman in the AP’s article.

Worth noting: Bryson was 46 when A Walk in the Woods was published. Redford is now 71.


January 17, 2008

Lane NakajiComments on my last post about ultra-marathoners on the Appalachian Trail generated some interesting responses.

Dave and samh wondered if trail running for records was an appropriate use of the trail.

But AT Class of 2007 thru-hiker Woodstock came to the defense of those who attempt to set speed records on the trail.

While it’s wise to consider appropriate uses of trails like the AT, I’m going to straddle the fence here. To be sure, I think you have to be crazy to run a 100-mile marathon, let alone a 2175-mile trail. I am also frequent to complain about so many people using their thru-hike to champion a cause.

But every time I start to question why someone did this or that on the trail, I always come back to the age-old reminder, “hike your own hike.”

Sometimes we hike for profound, life-changing reasons. Sometimes we hike because it’s fun.

An article about Lane Nakaji’s Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike in today’s Asheville Citizen-Times drove that point home for me.

People attempt long-distance hikes for a variety of reasons. For some, it marks an important moment in life, such as college graduation or retirement from a desk job, according to (PCT Communicator Editor) Angela Ballard.

Others set out with ambitions of writing a book or selling photos from their journey.

But Nakaji had no such plans. Instead, he took the first steps of a journey that wouldn’t end until Sept. 13 for different reasons — to tackle a challenge while connecting with nature.

“Around (Western North Carolina), I go out for a day or two at the most, usually it’s just overnight like most people,” he said. “But you come back, get back to work, and you’re kind of sore. You never really have a complete chance to get immersed into your surroundings. And I think that if you’re out there for more than four or five days, it starts to get easier.”

Don’t get trampled

January 15, 2008

Karl MeltzerIf you’re planning to hike the Appalachian Trail this summer, keep your wits about you.

No, I’m not warning about the dangers of being attacked on the trail, the recent tragic story in Georgia notwithstanding.

If someone comes running up from behind you, it might be an ultra-marathoner trying to beat the AT thru-hike record.

A couple weeks ago I noted that Lonnie Owens of Tucson said he plans to thru-hike, or rather, run, it in 30 days.

Now, “Speedgoat Karl” Meltzer says he’s also planning to break the current thru-hike record of 47 days, though he doesn’t say how long he expects it will take him.

But how many packages of instant oatmeal were in there, Jason?

January 8, 2008

Jason KlassJason Klass received a package in the mail and decided to post a video about its contents.

If you’ve ever seen a box of stuff nobody wanted in a shelter on the Appalachian Trail, you’ll immediately get the idea behind this box of stuff.

That’s not what I call walking

January 2, 2008

Lonnie OwensLonnie Owens says he plans to break the speed record for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, KVOA-TV reports.

Lonnie will start the hike on May 1.

“I was born in Tennessee, so walking in the mountains is nothing.”

He intends to complete the hike in 30 days.

The current record was set in 2005 by Andrew Thompson, who completed the trail in 47 days, 13 hours and 31 minutes. That’s an average of nearly 46 miles per day.

Oh yeah? Well, so’s your momma!

January 2, 2008

Powdered peanut butter sounds like something only a person hiking the Appalachian Trail could love.