“But how are we going to keep in touch while you’re on the trail? What if something happens to me and we need to get ahold of you?”
These were some of the first words out of my moms mouth when I told her of my finalized plans to be off the grid for 7 months. My mom normally does not worry about my adventures, and she has a lot of trust in my decision-making with the risky endeavors I pursue. However, her concerns were valid in the above questions. Unfortunately, my mother has a chronic illness, and her health has been steadily declining for the past 7 years. It is not out of the picture that something could happen while I am out, and that I would need to go home to be by her side, and help support my family. That is something I am fully prepared to do if the situation arises. The trail is important to me, and a big deal in my life, but it pales in comparison to my family, which I hold more important than any individual quest of my own. Anyways, that is all a whole different road to go down…
Back to the SPOT. The SPOT Gen 3 device is a GPS tracking unit. It does not have a screen, nor does it give you waypoints while you hike. Instead, it is a way for family and friends to track your progress by sending a signal every 60 minutes (or less, depending on what setting you choose) to a satellite that will pinpoint your location on a topographical map for others to view. With this, your family and friends can directly track your progress and see where you are at in real-time. Pretty cool, right? On top of this, it also has an SOS function, in case you get seriously injured and need help or evacuation. Lastly, it has a function to tell people who you need help in a non emergency situation. It probably has other functions, but none that I plan to use. Plus, it only weighs 4oz. That’s a quarter of a pound. Not very heavy at all. Here’s a picture of what it looks like:
My initial reaction to my moms concerns were selfish and uncaring. “No way, not going to do it. I’ve spent years lowering my pack weight, and this device does nothing for me on the trail, and will only lower my chances of completing these hikes in the window of opportunity that I have.” I was going to take a cell phone, and service was supposed to be pretty good in most places. I promised I would call and check in once a week with my parents, and told them that this should be enough. I’ve often dreamed of being off the grid totally, with no phone, but knew that was not an option with my moms health. I was compromising already, right? False. I was being a dick, and only thinking of my own wants without realizing the whole picture. Besides the fact that my initial reaction was not even true (the SPOT device can help me if I get hurt on the trail), it was selfish, and only looking out for myself and my priorities. After thinking about it for some time, I realized that my reaction was childish, to say the least. But my parents said that was ok and let me do as I please. Shout out to my parents being understanding and not arguing with me when I initially reacted the way I did. Possibly you both knew that I would eventually realize that you were not asking too much. Love you both mom and Dad!
I still believe the spot really won’t help me much on my hike. It’s not going to help me finish the trails. It may help me be safe if something happens, but it’s not going to help me get to where I need to go, or find the trail if I’m lost. Besides, the chances of me getting seriously injured on this hike is much less than me getting in a car accident, or getting hurt in the other activities I do in Colorado. There’s always a chance something could happen, sure. But those chances are slim. However, what if I come across someone in a remote place who is hurt? I know I would regret not having a SPOT device due to my selfish reasons. To not be able to help someone due to that would be stupid, and I know I would regret this. In that respect alone, that should be reason enough to carry a SPOT.
Just as importantly, I want my Mother to feel like she is a part of this trip, and I want to share my trip with family and friends. What better way to do this then to have my mom be able to see where I’m at any time she wants over the next month, with real-time updates? I know both her and my Dad would really enjoy that. Additionally, it gives them peace and mind to know that I am still moving and I’m not in danger or hurt. That’s worth something. I know that my parents got large trail maps for both the PCT and AT, and plan on putting a pin on my location each night to follow my progress on the trail. How cool is that? On top of being extremely supportive, they come up with some creative and fun ideas.
Lastly, I have a select few people who have talked of joining me on the trail for a weekend or week. There is no way I can know where I will be on my hike at specific times. This will help them make the decision on whether to join me, and where I’ll be when they want to link up. This will be their way of keeping tabs on me.
So, after further consideration, I’ll be carrying a SPOT on my hike. And anyone can follow along to view my progress. All you have to do is click the page above titled “Follow my Progress”. There is a link in that page that will bring you to the map, and show you my most recent check in. Here is the link to make it easier: http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0s2GnrYbdzP6qd59sU5sk2G6JigmOTlbz
I tested the SPOT out with my good friend Dan last night for the first time, checking in while I was riding my bike home from a late night at the office. As I left work, I told him to check the site and let me know if it worked. I was happy that the beacon worked, however it placed me in the middle of the cherry creek river in downtown Denver. His response to the very first check-in, “Looks like you crashed your hipster bike into the creek. Or you decided to swim for 23 minutes on your way home.” I think it needs a little work on accuracy…