Hikers try to improve Pacific Crest Trail app

Hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail this summer, Lon Cooper looks like a human version of the Google Street View car. Rising out of the side of his stuffed backpack is a gray pipe with a small, but thick, circular top. The antenna stands about 3 inches out of the top of his pack and looks like a miniature version of the tall cameras standing atop the infamous mapping cars. What is harder to see is the pipe running down the entire side of Cooper’s pack and the wire that follows that pipe. And what is impossible to see is what the wire connects to deep in Cooper’s pack: A geo logger.

In a way Cooper is like a two-legged version of the street view cars. Instead of snapping pictures, though, the equipment he’s carrying is logging data to help improve a mobile phone app – the Halfmile PCT app – that has helped thousands of hikers along the same route he’s traversing. “I never dreamed it would become so popular,” Cooper said of the app during a recent pit stop at Snoqualmie Pass.

Created by David Lippke and Cooper together in early 2012, the Halfmile PCT app serves as a companion to Cooper’s famous Halfmile PCT printed maps – Cooper’s nickname is Halfmile – and aids navigation on the PCT. Using a phone’s internal GPS locator, the app provides trail diagrams, tells hikers of upcoming points of interest and calculates distance and elevation gains and losses.

“The app knows where you are exactly,” Cooper said. “It knows how far it is to landmarks, knows the amount of elevation gain. It’s a big help to planning your route.”

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