Think taking an outdoor activity online doesn’t make sense? Think again. As with many other outdoor activities and sports, gravitating toward an online social network hub or forum seems to be the trend. This is true even with the active pursuit of hiking. Alex Genadink, founder of the new hiking website ComeHike.com, is betting his site might be your next hiking destination.
Looking to expand your circle of reliable hiking partners? Have a favorite trail you’d like to share with others? Want to calculate distance traveled and elevation gained but are GPS-challenged? Traveling out-of-town on business but know you’ll need a quick hike to reenergize after a day of meetings? Perhaps Genadink’s ComeHike.com is for you. It can answer your questions or help with trekking dilemmas as well as provide a virtual notebook to track your hiking exploits.
On the surface ComeHike.com has the look and feel of a social networking site aimed at hikers – and to some extent it is. To date Genadink estimates he has over 500 active users. But, as Genadink notes “it goes much further.” He emphasizes it’s really a tool for hikers. “While you can create a hiking group and network about hiking, it’s also a system to track personal stats.” Something like a smart hiking app for your computer.
The impetus for Genadink’s website was to provide hiking enthusiasts a free spot on the web to congregate and share all things about hiking and trails. “I didn’t grow up in an outdoor family,” Ukrainian-born Genadink relates. “But as I got into hiking I noticed many hiking sites had fees for meet ups.” This didn’t sit well with Genadink. “The whole point of my site is that it is free and more accessible.” And Genadink isn’t just another website developer or software geek; he’s an avid hiker and leads weekly hikes in San Francisco. His hikes offer participants a historic theme such as what he refers to as his ‘shipwreck hike.’ “You can see three shipwrecks in the Bay from my hikes,” he says.
Though much of ComeHike.com is geared toward the San Francisco bay area – where Genadink resides – it is gaining popularity in other destinations too, including Utah. Steve Baker, a Salt Lake City-based hiker, used ComeHike.com to form the 85-member Visual Possibilities Hiking Group. “I like Alex’s site and that he wants to promote hiking,” Baker says. “I also like the map tool option as well as seeing where other people are hiking.”
Another perk for Baker: user posted pics. He’s now motivated to travel to places like Michigan and Los Angeles based on the images posted on ComeHike.com by other users. “The LA-guy posts pictures of hikes that show downtown Los Angeles in the background,” Baker points out. I agree: Los Angeles is surprisingly hiker-friendly. Having spent 17 years in the area, I know of a few interesting hikes in LA’s Verdugo Hills that offer some spectacular sprawling urban views.
I had a chance to test ComeHike.com’s calculation tool. Using the site’s interface with Google maps I traced a line up San Gorgonio (also known as San G), Southern California’s highest peak at 11, 499 feet and one of ten summits that soar above 10,000 feet in the San Bernardino Mountains that lie 150 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. It’s a hike I do often and most of it is off trail. While I know my hike is a burly one, I have always wondered how it measured up in terms of distance and elevation. While at first I found ComeHike.com’s tool a little cumbersome, I eventually figured it out and chalked my initial confusion up to my typically steep learning curve when it comes to anything techy. In the end Genadink’s mapping instrument provided me with the cold hard facts I had longed for and gave me a few bragging rights in my peak-bagging circle of friends.
ComeHike.com is free to join and offers users the option to set up both private (invite only) and public hiking groups. Genadink encourages people to use ComeHike.com and envisions his site to reach global status in the near future. It’s a lofty goal for Genadink but I suppose that comes with the territory.