Low-Key Observational Hiking
This Web site is all about sharing and promoting a low-key approach to hiking, which is described in more detail in the "About Hiking" section. You don't hear much about this kind of being here hiking from other sources, and I think people are missing out on this aspect of enjoying the outdoors.
It seems to me that most proponents of hiking, and of outdoor activities in general, promote an attitude of conquering nature and scenery. A mountaintop is not a pristine environment from which to enjoy a vast, unspoiled landscape and to marvel at the intricacies of the adaptations that life has made to the challenging conditions of life above timberline, it is a box to check off of one's list of peaks climbed. A trail is not an avenue into a little-visited part of our world that gives us access to a way of life alien to our own urban existence and yet part of our sublime, rich world, it is a way to get from this peak to that waterfall. All of these check-off lists of peaks and trails serve to demonstrate one's legitimacy in the community of "hikers".
Many "real hikers" will scoff at my approach to the outdoors and my lack of credentials. No, I have not climbed all forty of New Hampshire's four-thousand-foot peaks. No, I have not "through-hiked" the Appalachian Trail, nor even hiked across the Pemigewasset Wilderness.
Many who know me question why I always go hiking in the same few places instead of exploring new places and adding to my list of peaks climbed and trails traversed. Many think I'm missing something, or in a rut, or just a pretend hiker.
Shall I brag about what I have accomplished that the "real hikers" have not? I must say it in order to get my point across. I say it, not to claim any superiority, but to call attention to a different way of seeing the outdoors.
I know a place where green frogs live more than four thousand feet above sea level. I know a ledge where two jack pine trees live miles from any others of their kind. I know where a water spider catches moths that fall onto a pond. I have watched fledgling belted kingfishers take their first flights. I have watched a spider who lives inside a touch-me-not flower catch a honeybee.
The natural places that I visit are not many, compared to the lengthy lists of trails conquered by some "real hikers" whom I know. But I belive that I truly know these places in ways that most others do not.
And I believe that this practice of getting to know a natural place, truly to know it, is a worthwhile and enriching experience that anyone can enjoy.
This Web site is your invitation to get to know the outdoors.
You may be surprised by the lack of technical sophistication on this Web site, considering that it is produced entirely by a software engineer. The fact is, despite being a software engineer, I'm a bit of a techno-retro-crank. I don't adopt the latest technology unless I see a good reason to do so.
Do we need more dancing bunnies on this Web site? As I said in a design guidline document back before there was a Web (when we called this stuff "interactive video"), "if you need catchy colors and graphic decorations to get your viewers to pay attention to your message, go back and rethink your message." I think the message gets across as it is, without dancing bunnies and other distracting eye candy.
Should I add more of an interactive community-based atmosphere? Arguably so, but I think that adds complexity without much gain. If I add features that require me to identify the individual visitor, then I need to add security and intrusion detection/prevention systems, and I must take responsibility for safeguarding the personal information that visitors to this site provide. For what? Easier and safer to provide all the interaction and community through me, with secure e-mail as the conduit. Visitors can post their comments via e-mail, providing as much or as little personally identifiable information as they like, and I don't have to worry about any of it being exposed on the public Internet.
Do we need a more dynamic database-driven system with active server-side pages? Frankly, yes, I do foresee a need for something like that, in order to make the process of finding and retrieving images and stories easier for the visitor. But until the volume grows, it's just as easy for the visitor and for me to maintain these things in manually-edited HTML code. Trust me, when it gets easier for me to maintain information in an automated system, I'm all for it. (I'm not a pure techno-retro-crank.)
Bear in mind that this Web site is a part-time effort, and I do have other things to attend to. I'll consider quitting my job and spending more time on building the Web site as soon as my new friend from Nigeria sends me all the money he's been promising, but until then, I'll work on the Web site when I can.
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(Hmmm ... Used to be, you could click on my "I Don't Spam" seal to verify my reputation. I was one of the earliest subscribers to idontspam<dot>com. I still don't spam, never have, but idontspam<dot>com doesn't work for my site anymore, and they don't return my emails. In any case, you can trust me to safeguard any information you provide here and not to publish it or share it with anyone else.)