Get your head out of your App and enjoy the great outdoors. Going out and about just got more hi-tech. It may be the same old scenery, but smartphones offer a few tools to make it even better. If used right, you will still spend most of the time looking at the waves of Lake Superior, and not at your screen. These six apps will enhance and not detract from the natural beauty of the Twin Ports.


For millennia people have enjoyed watching a sunrise from a beach. While we aren’t going to replace this sight, technology can help you pick a better place to view it from. A well-chosen spot is one with no land between you and the sun rising on the horizon. Here, the fiery globe appears to rise directly out of the water. Finding the possible sites for this phenomenon, is sometimes hard in Duluth. It would help to know exactly what exact direction the sun will rise from. Enter SunCalc.This app is simple. You choose a spot on a map and a date and time. Then, SunCalc shows the direction of the sun at that exact moment. You can then select sunrise for the target spot on the target date. If a line from your spot on the map toward the sun has a long trend of uninterrupted water (about 30 miles to be safe) you will have a good watery sunrise. Using this app, you will notice many things, like sometimes you can view an unobstructed sunrise from Park Point, but not at Brighton Beach.


You are going to the beach to watch a crisp fall sunset and need to know how to dress. The weather report giving the temperature in Duluth, doesn’t help much. Just saying “Duluth Current Temperature” is kind of useless in a city where it can vary 20 degrees at different locations. A better choice is the Weather Underground app, and its Wundermap. The Wundermap really is a wonder, and an example of an image speaking not a thousand but a million words. The map shows readings at about 20 weather stations around Duluth, with one near you. This map can allow you to manage all sorts of outings. Let’s say you want to go motorcycling. It might be 75 by the airport and 50 by the Lake. With Wundermap, you can see exactly how far you will have to ride from the Lake to get warm.


Back on the beach some waves are always great to view. It would be good know if there are going to be any good on a particular day. The Sailflow app was made for sailing, but helps with wave conditions as well. The app makes it easy see the current and predicted wind speed and direction at many points across the world. Look for a shore where strong winds are hitting it head on after going across a lot of water and catch.


After you find a spot with good waves wouldn’t it be nice to see a ship in the distance. Yes, boats aren’t part of nature, but they are very much part of the Duluth beach experience. You can learn more about the ships with Boat Watch. On this app you can see a map with icons showing a ship’s direction, speed, name, destination and more. After one passes, you might see another one is on the way soon. Use the app to help wait for your ship to come in.


For a really good view of the stars from a beach, you will have to travel a little up the shore from Duluth. To greatly increase your chances of finding a beach with the best sky, you can use the Dark Sky Finder. For some reason this app has been featured in Astronomy Magazine but is currently featured on IOS but not Android. For Android users use your browser and go to: djlorenz.github. io/astronomy/lp2006/overlay/dark. html, bookmark the address, and you basically have the app. The app and page feature a colorcoded map showing where skies have more or less light pollution. Use the app to find the really dark skies and enjoy the best views of the universe from below.


Once you get to that dark beach with dark skies, it would help to know what you are looking at. While there are many stargazing apps, a good program is Stellarium. It makes finding stars and planets fun and easy. This is a great example of technology enhancing the enjoyment of the natural world. For more cool apps while enjoying the cool outdoors visit . . . your Smartphone.

Written by John Shirley for Duluth.com the Magazine.