There’s a debate out there that might generate more heat than the age-old question of “App-uh-ley-chun” versus “App-uh-lach-uhn,” and that’s the issue of technology and the Appalachian Trail. As hikers, how do we use things like mobile devices without diminishing the A.T. experience for ourselves and others?
Benton MacKaye, the A.T.’s visionary, originally proposed that the Trail would be a series of work, study and farming camps along the Appalachian Mountains. He wanted those camps to be a refuge from city life, which he felt was quickly encroaching on society. His dream didn’t quite work out that way, but the idea is still present: get away from it all, and learn something.
We can be apprehensive of combining technology and outdoor experiences, and with good reason. Maybe we are afraid it will make us lazy. Less prepared. More reliant on a glowing screen than our intuition. Able to occupy a comment box on Facebook but not a seat around a campfire. And, perhaps we’re also afraid it will make us care more about the photo we post to Instagram than what it means to look at the view itself (“What did the sky look like that day? Let me consult #ISummitedKatahdinAndItWasAwesome because I was too caught up in sharing my experience instead of observing it.”)
There’s not an app out there that will prepare us for everything we will encounter while we’re out on the A.T. But technology is here, and it’s silly to pretend it doesn’t exist. The dilemma, then, lies in its use: how can technology enhance the A.T. experience and not detract from it?
Let us know your thoughts in a comment below.