A friend of ours is doing something quite out of the ordinary. A little over 93 days ago he packed away all his possessions (donating and selling off as much as he could), set aside funds and made preparations for a journey some of us could only dream of embarking upon: hiking the entire 2,663 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. The hike started in late May at the California/Mexico border and will eventually complete in the more brisk region of British Columbia. A most epic walk in the woods (and mountains, deserts, and just about everything inbetween)! He's been able to stay connected, and even update his Facebook page, thanks to an important tech device in his backpack...
The adventure began about 4 months ago when our friend Kolby found himself being notified he would be a victim of downsizing; the internet company he had worked for for several years was looking to trim down "operational expenses". At first the shock of finding himself only a few weeks away from unemployment left him reeling with worry. Why? Where would he work next? When?! But in typical Kolby fashion, he turned lemons into lemonade, quickly re-imagining the pink slip as a ticket to adventure…fate's permission to pursue a dream that had been forming for years.
You see, Kolby is a hiker. Not just any hiker, but a fella who loves hiking more than anything else in life, perhaps only matched by his fondness for a cold glass of beer after a long hike. Around these parts he's known as The Hike Guy. We've hiked with Kolby several times to local summits to enjoy a sunset and into the recesses of canyons in search of mycological models for the sheer fun of photographing them, but the destination has always been secondary to his love of hiking (geek alert: we first met Kolby inside a cave where we were both exploring a waterfall filled with California newts and frogs, connecting over a shared affinity for Tolkien and ComicCon). He's also been an avid social networker, stemming both from his gregarious nature and also his comfort with using Twitter, Facebook and his own blogs to reach out to fellow hikers (or yet-to-be hikers).
But back to Kolby's dream: he wanted to hike...every single day for months on end. The Pacific Crest trail was beckoning and he knew this was his chance. But hiking the PCT is serious business. It means plenty of preparation, an extraordinary amount of logistical planning, and a little bit of luck thrown in, since much of the trail meanders far away from the comforts and cellular coverage of civilization and fortune is sure to throw plenty of obstacles along the way.
First thing he did was prepare a network of communication between friends/family strewn throughout his hiking route to keep in contact with for provisions and aid. Then he equipped his pack with three pieces of tech, all small and lightweight, but each important in documenting his travels: a slim Canon point and shoot camera for photos and videos, his trusty 3G iPhone and one more important bit of technology.
Because cell coverage would be spotty or nonexistent during his adventure, Kolby partnered his iPhone with the SPOT Connect, a puckish satellite communicator which permits email, text messaging, GPS coordinate transmission and even Twitter/Facebook updates when paired to any Bluetooth enabled smartphone. This would not only be his lifeline during his hike, but would also allow him to keep his Facebook page updated with his trails and tribulations.
Thanks to the SPOT, Kolby has been regularly keeping us updated with where he is, how he's feeling and where he's planning to be (e.g. "I've done it. I've really done it. There was a time I couldn't even fathom hiking from Mexico to the top of Whitney, but here I am. My happiness is palpable. Tears of joy. Tears of joy."), all important when you're just a lone man trekking across the grand expanses of wilderness that surprisingly still exist along the PCT.
Thanks to this handy dandy device, us chair-bound types have been able to vicariously live through Kolby's updates (my better half receives and updates his blog via these SPOT Connect emails), alongside the occasional Flickr photo uploads when internet access makes itself available or when he's able to mail memory cards to friends for processing/uploading. It's all a very 21st century adventure.
Even though most of us will never set out to thru hike for a half year, even more moderate distant hikers, mountain bikers, hunters, campers and other outdoor enthusiasts might want to consider equipping themselves with something like the SPOT Connect or SPOT Messenger. We know we're now interested in getting one of these doodads ourselves, especially since we've been pushing further and further out into wilderness and have already found ourselves in a few hairy situations where cell phones proved to be nothing except weight in the pocket due to coverage issues. The $169 price tag seems negligible when compared to how vital communication would be in a time of an emergency.
All we know is we're really glad our buddy out there has one of these on him and we'll be continuing keeping up to date with his enviable adventure. Go Kolby!