June 21, 2018
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From video games to apps: Waldo County’s Ryan Linn turns love of hiking into a business

Courtesy of Ryan Linn
Courtesy of Ryan Linn
Waldo County native Ryan Linn has combined his passion for the outdoors with his old love of computing to develop new iPhone apps that work as interactive hiking guides to areas such as Camden Hills State Park
By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

CAMDEN, Maine — When 28-year-old Ryan Linn was growing up in Belfast and Unity, he hated hiking and being outside. Instead, he whiled away the hours playing video games or messing around with computers.

But then he went to boarding school at Gould Academy in Bethel, and things had to change.

“They required that you do some kind of after-school activity,” Linn said Thursday in a phone interview from Keene, N.H., where he now lives. “I picked the two easiest things I could think of — cross-country running and the outing club. Gould is near some awesome mountains. I got hooked on that after awhile.”

The former video game kid started to take a new path. He hiked the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails and put his computer away.

However, he recently combined his passion for the outdoors with his old love of computing to develop new iPhone apps that work as interactive hiking guides to areas such as Camden Hills State Park.

The apps are called “Guthook’s Hiking Guide,” because his trail name is, well, Guthook.

“Basically, I took what I wanted out of a hiking guidebook, and put it into the functionality of a smartphone,” Linn said.

Hikers can use his apps to determine exactly where they are on the trail, and then to learn more about the prominent landmarks or waypoints that are close to them.

They also can download maps to use when they leave cell service and Internet connections behind.

The Camden Hills State Park guidebook app is new, having been released just a few days ago. Linn said that he hiked every foot of the miles of trails in the park while developing the app.

“I hope people will like it,” Linn said. “A lot of people know about Maiden Cliff and Mount Battie. But I don’t know if people know about Bald Rock Mountain or Ragged Mountain. There’s a lot out there. It would be great if people find new parts of the park and the hills they wouldn’t have thought to, otherwise.”

He said that he put many miles on his hiking boots in all kinds of wilderness areas before turning his talents back to computers.

“Somewhere between high school and college, I decided that out in the hills was the best place to be,” Linn said.

He spent plenty of time exploring the Catskills while at Vassar College in upstate New York, where he studied history.

“I went there when I should have been doing my homework,” Linn said.

After graduation, he through-hiked the Appalachian Trail, and then two years ago hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. In between excursions, Linn said he bounces around, working seasonal, hike-friendly jobs. Those include DeLorme in Yarmouth, Eastern Mountain Sports and a summer camp. Next, he’ll be doing a leadership training course at the National Outdoor Leadership School in Wyoming.

His experiences didn’t really lead in the direction of app design, he said. In fact, he originally figured he would help a friend who wanted to write a guidebook for the Pacific Crest Trail.

“I thought it would be pretty neat to write guidebooks for some of the less-traveled trails in New England,” Linn said.

But his mom, Penny Linn of Belfast, told a friend about her son’s plan.

“She remembered from back in the day that I was into computers,” Linn said. “She said, ‘You’ve got to do this. Make some iPhone apps.’”

Linn bought a book on how to get started, logged on to the Internet and started to figure it out.

The apps for the Pacific Crest Trail — there are five, each covering about 500 miles — have been positively received. About 200 people are using it so far, he said.

Each app is selling for $4.99 through the iTunes store. He said that a version for Android phones should be available in the future.

“I tried to make them competitive with other guidebooks and maps,” Linn said, adding that he thinks tourists and locals alike might benefit from the Camden Hills State Park app.

For more information, visit Guthooksguides.com.

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