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Here we are in the heart of Spring; a time that some might consider perfect in the Upstate. The colors are amazing, the temps haven’t risen to the point of baking yet, and the bugs are at a minimum. With the various terrains and scenery just a short car ride away, this area is a great place for outdoor activities and exploration. With that in mind, here are three great apps that can help you get out there and experience the joys of nature.

AllTrails

Several years ago, my wife and I had this crazy idea to take the kids hiking. At the time, my oldest was little more than a toddler, and the two younger ones were strapped to my chest and back. We ventured out to what we thought was a relatively easy two-mile trail at Paris Mountain. Maybe we missed a turn. Maybe we went on to the wrong path. Maybe we had no business being out there. Six and half hours later, I was seconds from having a heart attack, and my wife was practically dragging our little toddler after her legs gave out. Our little afternoon walk turned into practically climbing up the side of a mountain. It’s easy to laugh about it now, but this scenario had the potential of being very dangerous and harmful to both the little ones and the adults who apparently couldn’t buy a clue.

An app like AllTrails would have helped me avoid this issue. With more than 50,000 trails and 56 million miles logged by hikers, it would have been the perfect guide. This app will show you local trails, give you directions to the trailhead, help guide you while out there in the wilderness, and has reviews from past hikers.

Geocaching

Turn your hikes into an adventure. Geocaching turns hiking into exploring for hidden treasures. Using this app, you can find caches hidden all around you. You can create an account, log in the items you found, leave notes in the log books at each location and trade knick knacks at each. The fun part is that you don’t even have to go deep into the wilderness to find them. A friend of my wife and her children visited once and took us geocaching. We were led right to Falls Park in downtown Greenville. Apparently, there are 807 geocaches near Greer. You can take a half hour or spend all day treasure hunting. If your children are anything like mine, the idea of finding a reward, no matter how small, will keep them searching, as well as keep interest in finding the next cache.

iNaturalist

For those curious little ones (and not so little), an app like iNaturalist is a great resource for your hiking adventures. This app lets you identify various species of animals, insects and even greenery. It is a great way to turn your family hike into a scavenger hunt. You can record what you have found, and get help from other users to identify things you don’t recognize. This app, that was originally a final Master’s Project for three students at UC Berkeley’s School of Information, is helping scientists as the users are documenting valuable biodiversity data. The information from the various users is invaluable to the scientific community, and you can do your part while having fun with your children.

While these are great opportunities to get outdoors and have fun, please understand that these apps should not be your sole resource when out in the wild. Due to potential battery drain or lack of coverage, your smartphone or tablet could become nothing more than a paperweight. It is vital that if you go out on long trails, that you learn how to use a map and a real compass, and have them with you. Water is something that you should never leave without, and a first aid kit is also important. You might also want to leave message with someone about where you are hiking and expected time of return. This information could be incredibly important should you get lost and need rescue.

Have fun out there, but be safe!

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