Virtual Walks: Miles to Go Before You Sleep

“You have reached the Melville Nauheim Shelter. This shelter was built in 1977 and sleeps 8. There is water just north of the shelter side trail on the AT.”

As an advocate of walking and hiking for maintaining both physical and mental health, you can imagine how excited I was to find a free phone application that offers virtual walks or runs of famous trails, cities, marathons, and National Parks. It was especially exciting to discover it at the beginning of the COVID pandemic when travel became problematic.

Smartphone app

Each step

Walk the Distance gives walkers and runners the opportunity to virtually walk or run the entire length of the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail, both of them over 2000 miles long. You can also choose the Boston Marathon, Yellowstone or Paris, among others. It works by connecting to the heart health application on your smartphone, applying each step you take during the day to the walk or run you’ve chosen.

Daily exercise

I start each day by walking my dog, Kona, 2 or so miles, usually between 5000 and 6000 steps. Those walks are the foundation of my daily exercise, but I also hike, play golf, work in the garden, etc. If I have my phone with me, every step is counted. My goal is at least 10000 steps a day, but I average closer to 12000 and my biggest one-day total since I started was 33500 steps in July when I spent a long day hiking in the Eastern Sierra.

Appalachian Trail

As a result, I have walked over 1500 miles of the Appalachian Trail since June of 2020. I chose the Appalachian Trail because I grew up in Pennsylvania and the trail passed close to where I attended college, although that was the 60s and I wasn’t doing much hiking in those days.

I’m currently walking through Vermont, having passed 434 checkpoints, each of which has photos and information about shelters or other items of interest, like Civil War battlefields, museums, flora, fauna, and available services. The app also gives you updates on “friends” who are walking the trail. I still have about 600 miles to go before I complete my walk.

Maintaining good health

Managing conditions

As a 72-year-old who has coronary artery disease and who has also had prostate cancer, it is important for me to do everything I can to maintain good mental and physical health as I age.

Learning along the way

I have hiked a considerable number of miles in the Sierras in California, including long sections of the John Muir trail, and nothing beats being there. But having a goal, like virtually walking the Appalachian Trail, increases my motivation and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Did you know that Reno, Nevada, is named after a courageous Union officer who died during the Civil War Battle of South Mountain in Virginia?

See you there

So it’s onward to Maine and then the end of the Appalachian Trail. After that I’ll tackle the Pacific Crest Trail. Maybe I’ll meet you along the way.

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