It’s finally here! The AT Hiker App for iPhone, which I’ve been working on like a madman since the end of the summer, is available at the App Store now. I’m currently working on upgrading the PCT apps to the new system, and will upgrade the other apps once that’s done. For now, here’s a brief look at the core of the new apps.
Almost everything is changed since last year, but the basic navigation system should be pretty similar to any of you who used the Pacific Crest Trail apps. Upon opening the app, you’ll see a map of the trail (split into sections, like the PCT, but all are accessible from within one app now, instead of split into multiple apps). Little icons along the trail show points of interest along the trail, like water sources, campsites, peaks, views, shelters, and trail heads. Tapping any of the icons will give you the option to see more info about the point of interest.
There are a few improvements to the point of interest screens compared to last year, but the one I’m most excited for is the virtual trail register for each one. I had a weak version of the register for last year’s app, but the upgraded version is a huge step up– all you have to do is hit the “Write in Trail Register” button, and you’re given a screen to write in. Once you’re done, the register entry is sent to everyone else with the the app, so when they look at the info screen for the point, there will be a chronologically sorted list of register entries. If there’s something about a shelter or campsite that needs to be shared, the info will get out as fast as you like. This was pretty useful on the PCT last year with water sources, and I can see it being a lot more useful this year.
Along similar lines, there’s also a section for “Trail News”, which is for sharing info that’s more widespread than for just one point. If there’s a major trail closure, a new permit system in place, a festival happening near the trail, or even if you’re just reporting that there’s trail magic somewhere, that news will get sent to other hikers as well. Of course, app users can mark news posts as useful or not useful so that the spam gets pushed to the bottom of the list, and important information gets displayed front and center.
Of course, the most asked-for feature of the apps that I had last year was elevation profiles, and those are here as well! I mentioned them a few weeks ago when I first got them to work, but here’s the final (for now) product. You can scroll the profile by dragging your finger along the screen, and pinch to zoom in or out. If you want to scroll faster, there’s a button to jump several miles ahead or back. You can also go from points of interest in the map straight to the same point in the elevation profile, or vice versa.
Best of all, the elevation profile will show your location if you’re within a hundred yards or so of the Appalachian Trail, so the GPS in the phone can basically locate you either from above (on the map) or from the side (on the profile).
I’m currently working with my partners, Paul and Alice Bodnar, to update our Pacific Crest Trail data, and once that’s done we’ll upgrade the PCT apps to the new software with elevation profiles and all that good stuff. Keep an eye out (and for those of you who already purchased the PCT apps, there is no upgrade fee so don’t worry).