Apps WTA is Loving Right Now
Apps on our phone are not only a way to connect to each other, they’re also a way to connect to nature. Right now, our phones are a lifeline for many to the broader world and the people we love. They can also serve as a bit of necessary rest and a way to connect with the natural world. From flora and fauna to running and, of course, hiking, here are some apps that WTA staff members are loving right now.
Apps on our phone are not only a way to connect to each other, they’re also a way to connect to nature. Right now, our phones are a lifeline for many to the broader world and the people we love. They can also serve as a bit of necessary rest and a way to connect with the natural world. Here are some apps that we at WTA are loving right now.
Seattle Tree Walks
Trees are synonymous with Washington. We are the Evergreen State after all. Many of us know some of the flora we see on trail — the stately Doug-firs, the iconic subalpine larches that light up our trails every October. But did you ever look around your neighborhood and realize how many different trees are on some blocks? For those in Seattle, the Seattle Tree Walks app can help you see your neighborhood in a whole new way. Launched on Earth Day this year, the app is the culmination of an idea by the Trees for Seattle program. There are about a dozen guided walks on the app right now, perfect for families and people of all abilities. You’ll find information about both the general species of tree and in some cases the individual tree, too. It’s a fun way to stay close to home, while learning something new about our green neighbors. WTA staff Christina Hickman highly recommends the app — check out her trip report and don’t forget to write one of your own after your local tree walk!
Strava has long been a popular choice for runners, hikers and bikers to track their progress. And while you can still use the app to keep yourself motivated, these days we are also using it to stay connected to our friends across distances. WTA’s Taylor O’Leary, who’s been missing her normal training crew, has been using the app to keep in touch. One of her friends has been creating “Strava Art,” which involves planning out a route that, as you run, reveals a design on the map. In their respective neighborhoods, they created individual flamingo-shaped runs. And then, for an added dose of connection, they planned a route in their neighborhoods that, when pieced together, created a huge Mrs. Potato Head, stretching across North Seattle. They have an ongoing group text outside of the app to share their experience on their individual runs, tips on nutrition and stretches — all the things they would normally talk about on their in-person training runs. Strava also lets people exercise at their own speed and own time — while still feeling like part of a group.
Many WTA staff have been fans of the Merlin app for a while, but our love of birdwatching has only grown as we’ve stayed closer to home lately. Merlin can be used a few ways. It can help you identify birds quickly and easily, either based on a picture or your own observations. You can also use it to keep a life-list of birds you can see. And finally, you can use it to simply explore and learn about birds — either in your area or around the world. The identification tool for birds you observe is fast and intuitive — great for folks who are getting into birding. It’s also fun for kids and encourages them to be observant. The picture ID function is also really cool. One of our staff even downloaded the birds of Peru so she could identify birds she was watching on a webcam.
"I'm not sure how our birding hobby started, but it's expanded rapidly over the last year or so — in no small part thanks to Merlin's Bird ID feature. The app asks five questions and then provides a list of possible birds to help you identify whatever tweeter you're looking at. It's opened our eyes to a whole new world of learning, even just gazing out our window in Ballard. You can download 'bird packs' for other parts of the country and world for use on your travels, or even just for entertainment!" Allie Tripp, WTA staff
In addition to birds, folks at WTA love lora and fauna in general. That’s where the iNaturalist app comes in. The app has many uses. Land managers and researchers can crowdsource data for specific geographic areas. For example, the Kalispel Tribe Natural Resources Department’s BioBlitz at their Indian Creek Community Forest property. It can also be used by individuals to help ID plants or animals. You take a picture of whatever it is (bugs, birds, flowers, trees, fungi, etc.) and upload it, and the app makes initial suggestions about what it might be. Sometimes that’s enough to get an ID, and if not, folks can check back to see if people in the community have suggested an ID.
WTA’s Holly Weiler downloaded the app and started with just a couple plants she knew and thought were cool. But now, she uses it to ID things she doesn’t know.
“There are very knowledgeable people reviewing things on the app, so almost everything I've ever uploaded has been ID'd now (and the exceptions were kind of lousy photos on my part). One of the bugs I found turned out to be rare for my area and is considered "research grade" and included in a iNaturalist project on "Mutillids of the world," which was pretty cool (it was Dasymultilla coccineohirta, "cow killer"). I love to get IDs for things I don't know, but there's also an aspect of iNaturalist that's citizen science, which I love.”
WTA’s Trailblazer Mobile App
With the help of some incredible volunteers, WTA's Trailblazer free mobile app is available on iPhones and Android devices. With it, you can explore thousands of Washington's trails and the latest trip reports from your fellow hikers without being tethered to your computer. We believe that people will protect the places they love to hike, from local parks to remote wilderness. The app is just one way we can connect hikers to trail experiences in their backyard and across the state.
“I’ve always used our app a lot, but I’ve been using it even more since we’ve all been staying closer to home. I love the ‘near me’ feature and it’s reminded me of local trails that I love and helped me find some new ones. And now that we can travel a bit farther from our neighborhood, it’s also helped me find hikes that my family will enjoy and where we’re likely to have the space we need to hike responsibly.” Jessi Loerch, WTA staff