2018 Annual Review

It’s time for a review, looking back not just in terms of exploration, but also in the growth of this site.  The exploration highlights of the year:

2018 was an eventful year where I really rounded out the hikes in the Northeast part of the state.  From forgotten town trails to the worst hike ever at Blackwell Brook. We had 149 days of rain this year which made every waterfall and cascade hammer beautifully at the cost of mud and wet feet on nearly every hike.  Old properties changed, like the dam removal at Blackledge Falls and the tornado that closed Sleeping Giant.  New trails were added like the Williams Preserve in Coventry and I got to map the trails at both Humaston Brook and Bishop Swamp.

Looking Back

I added 114 locations to the map in 2018:

I also revised every location (some quite a few times) to have more complete information, clickable links, and useful stats at a glance. I have also continued to edit and update locations added in the past. Sometimes due to new information and sometimes because I can’t believe how poorly I wrote them.

What went well this year:

Balance.  I upheld both the exploration and writing goals of this site throughout the year and really hit my stride in the last couple months.  I feel great about how often I was able to get outdoors and the amount of writing I got to do around it. I had 93 days of hiking this year and added about two new locations to the site each week. I still have a backlog of places to add and a looong to-do list but that’s just fuel for an easy burning fire.

Visitors.  The site is now getting about 1,000 hits each month, up from the 60 or so at this time last year.  I’m surprised and thrilled that so many people are finding the site and I hope finding it useful.  I’d like to build on that success and engage with readers in the coming year (see what didn’t go so well below).

What didn’t go so well this year:

ExploreCT: Season 1.  I had intended to do a more “official” series of videos showcasing different locations around the state.  I had the locations selected, parks visited and researched, storyboards completed and then I just… didn’t film them.  I think this is because they never felt official enough like I was waiting for one more idea to add some polish. Instead, I filmed a bunch of go-out-and-explore movies that were light on information and relied more on the process of discovery.  Once I am able to meld the vision in my head with my technical ability, this will fall together.

Where to Start Page.  Another intention of mine was to create a page introducing the site and some tips towards using it well.  Most visitors to the site seem to come from Google searches and, if interested, flip back through the post history.  A “Start Here” page might provide a different channel to explore the site and I think I could have some fun presenting new ways to look at groups of listings. This is another example of trying to match vision with ability that keeps getting pushed off in favor of easier projects.

Feedback.  I think the biggest missing part of this site for me is feedback from readers.  I have a handful of people that use the site regularly and I get to talk to in person, but miss interaction with readers who drop by.  I don’t have a comments system and only die-hard explorers would want a forum, so the only option is to port that part of the site to another platform like social media.  I have some ideas that I’d like to test and will post about in January.

That’s all I’ve got for this year’s Annual Review. As always, thanks for reading. I can’t wait to explore in 2019.

– Matt