Very quickly, blogging while on the road has become just as central a part of what I'm doing this summer. The response to my trip has been wonderful to see. 10 days in, and this site has had almost 10,000 page views from several thousand unique visitors. I'm encouraged that people are getting a glimpse into my journey, but, more importantly, I hope that what I document will help show just how magical our national parks are. They simply are not to be missed.
One question that might be on a reader's mind is how I actually go about blogging while on the road. I've literally found my first wifi hotspot on this entire trip (excluding my one night in Chicago at my friend's and my one night in a motel in Bismarck, ND). Early on, there were certainly plenty of Starbuckses, but I never had the time to stop and pull out my laptop. Daylight time is precious to me, so if I'm inside a coffee shop instead of out on the trails, I feel like I'm wasting time. So, how do I do it?
Here's my process. In the morning, I break camp and hit the road. While driving, I use a car power inverter to recharge anything that needs charging. I always prioritize my portable battery pack (made by Jackery), because this ensures that I can have 2-3 full charges of my iPhone. But I also charge my laptop, my Garmin GPS watch, and my spare camera battery. I often go through very extended portions of the day with absolutely no cell signal. The beauty of the iPhone is that it still tracks your blue dot through GPS. So if I've preloaded a map or route, I can roughly see where I am and where I should be headed.
When I arrive at a trailhead, I kind of put all of this to the side. I always bring my camera--a compact Canon SL1, with a very shallow 22mm prime lens. Because the body is already so small, this set-up is perfect for running. If I want to--and occasionally I do--I can actually run while holding the lightweight camera in one hand. It's just like holding a hand-held water bottle. For runs where I know I want some more camera firepower, I consider bringing my telephoto lens. This is how I've gotten such great close-ups of wildlife. But bringing that lens comes at the expense of a heavier pack. I need to have a pretty good reason to bring it.
To avoid feeling schizophrenic on the trails, I break up my run into chunks. I begin with the camera put away. I run as freely as I'd like, just getting a feel for the land, and soaking it all in. Eventually, when I reach my first picturesque segment, I pull out my camera and make frequent stops. Of course, magical things happen on each run. Even if I'm in a groove, I'll stop to take a photo. Interestingly, these photo breaks are very good short recovery periods from running.
After a day out on the trails, I'm usually making my way to a campsite, hopefully somewhere very nearby. Once I arrive, I set up camp, cook dinner, and relax for a bit. And it's after that period that I make the blogging magic happen. I begin by taking my SD card out of my camera and into my laptop. From my laptop, I can cull the photos that I want to include in the blog. But if I don't have wifi, how do I get those photos online? The answer is that I use my iPhone. Squarespace has a mobile app. It's pretty barebones, but allows you to post text and images. And that's really all that I need. To get the photos onto my iPhone, I use iTunes photo-syncing feature.
Once the photos are on my phone, I begin writing the blog post. You're probably wondering how I'm able to type such long posts using only my iPhone. Again, the reality is that I have technology on my side. I've always had a Bluetooth keyboard for my smaller devices. I brought that keyboard along with me now. I'm so glad I did. It is that keyboard that lets me type just as if I'm using a regular computer. So, I type up a post, add in some images (because words can do only so much), and prepare to post it. If I'm in an area with cell service, I'll publish it right then and there through my phone. If not, I'll wait until I reach a point the following day where I do have cell signal. (For instance, I'm actually at the Wind Cave Visitor Center right this moment, and I've found my first free wifi hotspot, so I'm actually using internet on my laptop.)
Why do I even bother? Well, I've realized that part of what makes this blog interesting is that it unfolds somewhat in real time. Many people have told me how they enjoy living vicariously through me and my blog. To make that vicarious experience as real as possible, I'm doing my best to share bits and pieces of my progress each day, while on the go, instead of waiting until I next hit a coffee shop (in this area of the country, potentially never), and dump everything at once.
I've already violated my principle and have spent 30 minutes here inside this air-conditioned visitor center in Wind Cave National Park. I just went on a cool tour of the cave system. It's now time to gear up and run some of the trails on the surface. And then I hit the road again, this time for Bighorn National Forest.