By: Charles Bowen
It used to be that we would think of “travel stories” only in the spring and summer. But increasingly, our readers are more imaginative than that. For those who can spare the time — including that ever-growing base of aging baby boomers, now with their advance columns marching into early retirement — the prime months for hitting the road are January, February, and March. Why shovel snow back home when you can chase each other in the sunshine?
And many members of this new class of snowbirds are looking for more than a little sand and surf. They are in the market for a bit of adventure. So advise your travel writers to do a little enterprising on the Internet when looking for your next pre-season travel pieces. One of the most interesting nontraditional travel sites I’ve found recently is Pickatrail, an online service developed and operated by the Wilderness Society. It offers general information about backpacking and hiking in the United States and different trails in other countries, such as Mexico and the United Kingdom.
Trails are organized alphabetically, with emphasis on those leading through the U.S. national park system. For each trail, there is a brief sketch of the host country, including basic climatic information, local topography, and the type of terrain that each trail traverses. Besides that, short essays cover subjects related to hiking, such as identifying local plant species, associated health risks, what items to bring along on the journey, and so on. The site features an interactive map of the United States that allows visitors to click on each individual state to obtain an overall profile of the trails located there.
To check it out, visit the site at http://www.pickatrail.com, where a newsy opening screen has thumbnail pictures and paragraphs about featured destinations. For instance, at this writing the site focused on a medieval monastic church in England, a lighthouse in California, and Red Rock Canyon in Nevada. If you’re looking for a specific trail, use the hyperlinked alphabet at the top of the main screen to hone in on the topic.
For each trail in the data, the site provides links to general information on the location of the attraction, its historical significance, and detailed location. Also clickable are links to information on its visitors centers, contact information, and maps.
Speaking of maps, the site is very attuned to the Global Positioning System, that constellation of U.S. satellites that provide advanced and accurate position and navigation around the world. A detailed section on GPS is included in the site’s collection of answers to frequently asked questions.
Other considerations for using Pickatrail in your writing and editing:
1. For an overview of the entire site, click on the “Site Map” option at the bottom of any screen. It provides links to visitors’ information, maps and background articles on backpacking, biking, birding, camping, hiking, skiing, and snorkeling.
2. If you write about the site in your news columns, you might want to alert students that the service also provides some reference material they could use, such as basic geographic information on individual U.S. states and featured articles on outdoors topics, ranging from camping gear to poison ivy. It also has an impressive array of interactive maps online.
3. The site also is a useful portal for assorted environmental links, with connections for the National Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, the Rainforest Action Network, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the World Wildlife Fund, and others.