Reading Reflection: On Trails

Part of understanding our theme of Technology on the Trail demands an exploration into the history and nature of trails.  Robert Moor provides that in his book, On Trails: An Exploration. Inspired by hiking the Appalachian Trail, Moor sets out on a quest to “find the nature of trails”, including their earliest pre-human history, their establishment by animals ranging from ants to elephants, and their adoption by humans.  Most relevant to our goals, Moor includes a discussion of “how trails and technology…connect us in previously unimaginable ways”.

Moor acknowledges our fickle relationship with technology, noting that many hikers embrace GPS devices but scorn mobile phones, that technology is a malleable and agnostic vehicle for conveying knowledge yet inadequate without extensive time outdoors. He seems like a late adopter of technology, only willing to step in when he feels he’s missing out on an experience; e.g., he only bought a smartphone when he started needing to view online videos and when he recognized a need for a GPS-enhanced online map.  Yet he’s clearly done his homework about the history and continuing impact of technology on trails and hiking, providing a valuable resource for anyone interested in trails.

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