when i was a little girl, my dad would take two weeks off of work every summer, stuff all of the kids (4 girls, all roughly 1 year apart in age) into the station wagon, and go camping all up and down this great state. did i mention that it was an un-air conditioned vehicle? with burgundy leather interior? and wood paneled sides? oh, and then there’s that part about my extreme predisposition to car sickness… yeah, it was a LOOOOONG drive to acadia every summer. but once we finally arrived, it was all sorts of magic. i’m pretty surprised that the blackwoods campground never blacklisted my boisterous/insane family, because we tore that place up from echo lake to thunder hole. not in a vandalism kind of way, but we experienced the crap out of that national park.
well, it’s time to put on my exploring pants again, because i just booked myself a real life vacation on long pond for later this summer (view exhibit a- tiny charming cabin at left). thankfully this time around, i have a vehicle with AC, a good supply of dramamine, and the aid of a little sexy modern technology. the chimani company contacted me a few weeks ago with an offer to review their acadia national park informational/navigational app for the iphone. so just in case there was any question: no, i’m not getting paid to write this, but yes, chimani did give me the product for free (a $9.99 value on itunes). but don’t worry, i’m a merciless reviewer not swayed by swag. i promise.
now i won’t be able to really see what it’s made of until it’s time for summer vacation fun, but i figured i could screw with it for a while and see what i could learn. here’s what shook out during my first poke around:
1. it’s pretty intuitive. the navigation screen has a series of big buttons that say nice and obvious things like “map”, “hiking”, & “auto tour”. which is good, because there is no big button that says “directions”. (the app info button was shockingly less informational than i would have preferred).
2. it’s crazy full of information. (well, except for how to use it) take the auto tour and learn everything you ever wanted to know about acadia but it never occurred to you to ask. who knew that the bubble rock parking lot had such a fascinating history? if it’s vaguely notable and inside the confines of the park, chimani can tell you about it. looking for the only fjord on the east coast? CHECK. need to get your hands on a copy of the beaver log newspaper? DOUBLE CHECK. um, did i mention that there are AUDIO CLIPS?
3. it knows i have a tiny bladder. the auto tour makes heavy (and specific!) mention of restroom locations, all are well marked on the map, AND there’s even a big happy button devoted entirely to the subject. chimani even takes this function to the next level by providing DESCRIPTIONS of said restrooms. “restroom oasis” anyone? it’s comforting to know that i can spend my vacation confident that i won’t have to be squatting behind any nationally recognized boulders or shrubs. which is good, because i always end up peeing on my shoes.
4. it makes sure i don’t miss the bus. i actually had no idea there even was an acadia shuttle. this program not only shows all of the designated island explorer pick-up points on the map (although it also taught me that you can just flag them down wherever), but tells you exactly when the next shuttle will arrive at each stop, and how much longer you have to wait.
5. it doesn’t discriminate against the chronically out of shape. all hiking trails are listed by length and graded by difficulty. this assures that asthmatic fatties like me don’t end up way over their heads when they just want to go for a brief mountain jaunt. sorry perpendicular trail, i’ll be sticking to the wonderland path. although the bike trails are not similarly color coded by how much they’ll kick your ass, they are described in enough detail that you can easily avoid anything involving the words “steep” or “recommended only for experienced cyclists”.
6. it knows where i am even when i don’t. it took me slightly too long to figure out how to do it, but when you hit the little bullseye icon on the map… BAM there’s that comforting little blue GPS dot telling your exact location. knowing my proximity to the restrooms at all times is tantamount; as is knowing exactly how much longer the slightly too hard hike i picked out is going to last, or if i’m about to wander into some sort of tragic gorge accident.
7. it makes sure i’m never bored. fishing, swimming, biking, hiking, birding, boating, camping, picnicking, and even HORSES all have their own big shiny buttons on the chimani app. considering that it costs $36 bucks to get into funtown for one day- the $20 7-day pass (per vehicle) to acadia is a way better value, and there’s just as much stuff to do- all of it better for you/more fun than eating too much funnel cake and puking on the thunder bolt (not that i know from experience or anything).
in short, it’s a pretty incredible app (more incredible than i could reasonably cover in one review). it’s economical, information packed, extremely efficient, and takes up a lot less space in my backpack than a map and/or guidebook. however, despite the general coolness/utility/awesome informational factor, i can’t give it my total 100% thumbs up. there were a few minor quirks and missing pieces that i feel could be improved over time:
1.i can’t figure out how to un-favorite things, and it’s filling me with rage.
2. maybe it’s just my older version iphone, but the program crashed 3 times while i was using it. not a huge deal, but inconvenient none the less.
3. i ran an update and it took FOREVER to load. and then the program crashed again.
4. does anyone know what the cell coverage is like in acadia? how much functionality do i lose if a wander into an area with no bars (which seems likely the further downeast you go)?