On your next wilderness excursion to, say, a well-visited glacier, you may encounter another adventurer staring at his iPhone. Don’t imagine that he’s tuning out nature. He’s more likely to be tuning in with a new and free application designed to put a comprehensive guide to Alaska’s wonders in the palm of your hand.
With the Alaska App (thealaskaapp.com) the hiker might be listening to an expert describe the geography and history of the site. Or getting directions to an unusual relic or spectacular view just a short distance off the beaten path. Or checking the availability of the nearest Forest Service cabin. Or finding a Japanese restaurant in the closest town. Or watching video of an air tour over the top of the very glacier at whose terminus you’re both standing.
If the Alaska App is not the first mobile travel guide for Alaska, it’s surely the most comprehensive, with the most extensive and wide-ranging data base for the inquisitive traveler.
The app is the brainchild of Bob Kaufman, the Anchorage entrepreneur who came up with the Alaska Channel seen on hotel televisions, the Alaska Activities Guide, alaska.org and other information outlets aimed toward tourists.
“It’s not just for visitors,” he said. “My hope is that everyone will use it and contribute to it and it will be a platform to share really cool finds.”
Many travel guides, for instance, will direct you to the footbridge into McCarthy or the nearby mines. The Alaska App will also tell you where to find the locals’ favorite swimming hole, the scenic creek near town and a historic railroad turntable somewhat hidden back in the woods.
Kaufman has arranged for experts to voice audio guides for numerous locations, from the Kenai Moose Range to the Alaska Zoo, the Anchorage Museum and the Aviation Heritage Museum.
Other audio guides on the app, accompanied by pictures, tell you where to look up to see bear markings on trees, or down to see where glaciers have left their scratches in the rock. “Make some noise along the way,” says a gravelly voiced trail guide at one point. “Lets the bears know you are coming.”
Some features direct people to the most likely places to see eagles, bears or whales. Users can post their own sightings along with videos or photos. And if you want the photos to look their best, click to a tips page where you’ll get professional photographer Clark James Mishler explaining how to get the most out of your camera.
You can also post ratings and reviews of restaurants, hotels, RV parks and campgrounds. Or check the weather on any functioning weather cam in the state. Or view videos of flyovers across various scenic destinations.
Originally from Michigan, Kaufman lived on the East Coast before moving to Alaska 25 years ago. He began work on the project over a year ago. As it stands now, he figures his app contains 10,000 points of interest. “You’re never going to put all that in a printed travel guide,” he said.
But then most people don’t plan to visit 10,000 points of interest.