I recently discovered a fun and motivating way to get walking and/or hiking using Pacer’s Virtual Adventure Challenges. Pacer is a free pedometer app for smartphones. There are several challenges to choose from. The medals are collectible quality, and simply add more motivation for finishing. Hey, I’ve entered local walk challenges that raise money for local charities as much for the charity as I did for the t-shirt!
The challenges aren’t free unless you are a Premium Pacer subscriber, but you can purchase each challenge separately and receive a real medal for completing each challenge you enter.
My favorite non-Pacer medal came from Penguin in the Park, a local 5k race for walkers and runners. Being there with others was memorable and motivational, but virtual challenges have the advantages of being completed at your own pace and on your own schedule. You don’t have to travel to a race. Instead, you can use your own favorite local hiking paths, neighborhoods, or other scenic areas to participate.
You get to decide what activities will count towards the distance along your virtual path. You can include steps you walk from daily activities, such as walking while on your job, or exclude those to motivate yourself to get to moving more before or after work, for a more invigorating, healthy, and enjoyable journey.
It’s also up to you to decide how many days you will complete the challenge by. So, the challenges are customizable and doable, regardless of how fit you are when you begin.
Just note that you won’t be able to change settings once you start though. There’s no changing the rules along the way! This is good practice for keeping commitments and meeting personal goals. I like this about it. You can’t ditch your commitment or get lazy.
Mount Kilimanjaro Virtual Challenge
I just finished Pacer’s Mount Kilimanjaro Challenge, a 31-mile trek that included a map showing where I would be along the trail as I reached each checkpoint. The checkpoints included a 360-degree view of what I would have seen if I had actually been there in person. It was enjoyable to view my progress at the end of each day.
I also learned a little bit about the wildlife and vegetation of Mount Kilimanjaro and other interesting bits of information. I discovered much of the trail resembles the surface of Mars! It’s barren and treacherous, almost otherworldly, especially for a flat lander like me.
Yellowstone Virtual Adventure Challenge
Today, I began the Yellowstone Challenge. This is a 155.3 mile challenge that will take me through the gorgeous scenery of America’s first national park. I’ll encounter hydrothermal pools, diverse fauna, wildlife, rivers, forests, and waterfalls.
I’ve been to Yellowstone in person before, so it brings back memories of visiting the park with my parents way back in the late 1980s. We visited the year before the huge and devastating fires of 1988.
The 1988 Yellowstone fire consumed about 36% of the park, or 800,000 acres. Many Americans were saddened, angered, and horrified by the images they saw every night on the evening news.
Yellowstone, as a beloved national treasure, brought to the forefront fire management decisions that had been made in previous decades. However, much was learned about the effects of fire upon natural ecosystems.
We returned to Yellowstone two years after the big fire, and I remember my parents feeling a deep mourning for the forests, wildlife, and scenery that they had remembered. Yet, there were already green little shoots of trees poking through the blackened soil, fallen logs, and debris. It would be decades before the Yellowstone many remembered would begin to resemble itself once again.
I would go on to major in natural resources and fish and wildlife conservation. Fire science and ecological restoration are two of my favorite topics. I hope to include much more of my love and knowledge of America’s priceless natural resources and ecosystems on this site.
And though I won’t be able to visit Yellowstone this year in person, I know my virtual journey will be as much of a walk down memory lane as it will be a wonderful motivator to get me out and enjoy the wonder of nature right where I live.
You can learn more about Pacer’s Virtual Adventure Challenges here.