When I first heard about the “Walk the Distance” iOS application on Outside Online I was immediately intrigued and installed it on my iPhone immediately.
Like many of us, I dream about hiking the Appalachian Trail, either in full or in smaller chunks. But like most people faced with life, family, kids, etc. that dream remains out of reach, at least for the moment.
Walk that Distance is an application that allows the users to virtually walk along trails like the Appalachian Trail (AT) and others. It scratches that itch we can’t quite reach through local walking or hiking activities.
The Outside article left me with questions, I wanted to know more about the app, how did it come to be? What was the motivation, so I reached out to their Facebook account and almost immediately heard back from John the developer of Walk the Distance.
OAJ: Hey John, can you tell me a little about yourself and what outdoor activities you are passionate about?
John: I enjoy cycling (road and mountain), hiking, snowboarding and running. I’ve done several week long backpacking trips in North Carolina, Montana (Glacier National Park) and New Mexico. I live in Virginia, and went to school at Virginia Tech, and have done many of the AT day hikes in this area: Mcafee’s Knob, Dragons Tooth, etc.
In general I love the outdoors, and try to spend as much time outside as possible, which sometimes is hard given my job is to work at a computer for 8 hours a day. I have a daughter, 4 months old now, that I will take outside often even just to sit on the porch; I want her to have that time.
OAJ: How did you get the idea for the Walk the Distance app?
John: My mom wanted to build a virtual walking challenge she can do against her co-workers. We started publishing shorter informational walks, along with the first couple sections of the AT.
After awhile, we figured out our biggest fans were the ones walking the Appalachian Trail, and they were walking the sections faster than we were releasing new ones. So beginning of this year my mom and I put our heads down and finished the AT.
The feedback now confirms our theory which is that people like the idea of virtually thru-walking the AT, so now we are focused on more of the same going forward (like publishing the triple crown).
OAJ: What challenges did you run into developing the application?
John: Time, there is not enough of it. This is just a side project for me so I don’t have a whole lot of time to spend on it. That is the reason why there is not an Android version yet, and why you can’t friend people directly from the map.
OAJ: Do you have any future development idea or additional trails planned for future releases you might like to share with our readers?
John: My top list based on feedback from my users and what I think is important. Any feedback on this list from you or your readers is appreciated.
- Triple Crown (short-term PCT is next, then CDT sometime after)
- Better User to user interaction: A chat where people can talk to each other, private chat for friends. “Wave” at people on the trail. Share photos of yourself actually out on the trail. Have the ability to add photos to certain spots on the trail. Share progress on Facebook
- Integration with Fitbit, since this is a notable exception in the list of third-party devices that integrate with Health
- Android users I’m sorry - I am still a little ways away but should be sometime in 2020
There is a lot of little things that can be improved in the app, such as being able to add friends from the map, and I’m aware of many of the things.
But my message to my users is send me an email using the feedback link in the app and let me know what you find. Even if I already knew about it I’ll send you a free walk to unlock the next section of the AT.
OAJ: When looking at the trail map and I one for other people trekking it would be great to be able to click on a person you see often and send them an in application friend request, is this something you might consider adding in a future release?
John: Yes, I am going to add where if you click on someone you go to their profile page and can add them as a friend from there. How about a suggestion service: “we see you have been walking with Bob, add him as your friend?”
I really appreciate John sharing these insights with us, it really sounds like he has some exciting application plans for the future! So let’s talk about the app some more.
Here you see the main screen. Once you select something to walk, it appears conveniently at the top for easy access. As the picture below shows, I am currently walking the first section of the AT. If were to go into the main AT section it shows all of the available parts that you have unlocked.
The AT has 19 parts, unlocking all 19 normally costs $4.99 but as of this writing is only $2.99! Which I just took advantage of and purchased! Woo! I enjoy that it shows the overall percentage complete in this menu, I am sitting at 1% which is a little daunting and motivating at the same time.
Hiking Trail View
The hiking trail view initially shows all of the other app users close to you on the trail, this can be quite busy initially with some many people downloading the application and having a relatively small amount of distance logged.
I imagine that as I get more distance logged that the number of people surrounding me will slowly start to decrease. I like that John included a toggle to let you turn the other app user positions off. Really handy feature.
More Trail Stats
By choosing the chevron symbol displayed on the screen you can see some additional details about your distance covered today and in total, as well a list view of nearby users. The session journal tab breaks your sessions down by date and distance.
Not shown is the “Requests” tab where you can add friends from contacts and invite by email. It also includes suggested friends that I believe are pulled from your immediate vicinity on the trail.
All and all, I really am enjoying this application. John has done a great job on the trail maps, I’ve found myself many times looking at the different trails maps online and John’s rendition is spot on from what I can tell. All too often when I download an iOS app it will keep my attention for a short period of time and then be forgotten.
I actually find myself going into this app quite often to check my progress. For someone working full time, with a kid close to entering college and another in middle school, I realistically am not going to be able to hike the AT. Hopefully (knock on wood) I’ll be able to get some section hikes in.
This apps helps me keep the dream alive. So I am hiking it virtually, I’m still getting out and putting in some miles and having fun. All in all a quality application I would recommend you check out.
- Rated 4.5 stars - Great start with some exciting features planned for future releases
- Interested in downloading Walk the Distance? You can finding it in the Apple App Store - Click Here to Download!