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​If those trails could talk

HPR Abroad | July 14th, 2021

Sabrina Hornung

sabrina@hpr1.com

15 July 2021

If these trails could talk, what would they say?

Well.. depending on the trail and if the trail is marked with the green metal Talking Trails sign, we’re a lot closer to finding out.

“So rather than reading signs, we connect guests with the whole story, just by dialing in, so that you can access the content by dialing in on the phone number with the talking point number that's found on the sign or you can download the talking trail mobile app, which is free. That's a really effective way to do it, because you can click on the different talking points and or you can click the map view and kind of see where they're located,” explains Bismarck-based developer Shawn Brannan.

Talking Trails is basically a self-guided tour app and sites can be found throughout the state. “We're at the Fargo Air Museum. We're at the Dakota Territory Air Museum in Minot. We're at Fort Lincoln State Park. We're at the Old Red 10 Scenic Byway. We're at the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame. The National Buffalo Museum, the Frontier Village in Jamestown, the former governor's mansion in Bismarck with a few other sites coming on board in North Dakota as well, then we have some sites in Minnesota and Colorado too,” said Brannan.

Brannan taught English at UND for a few years, and went on to teach at a university in Spain for a year. While in Spain, “I was going to these magnificent museums and doing these kind of ‘dirty headphone tours’ is what I like to call them, and all the while I had an iPhone in my pocket. I'm thinking, geez, How is this still happening, right? When I came back, I got talking trails going and just kind of been running with it ever since.”

He went on to say, “When I was in Spain, I went on this one tour, I traveled to Paris, and then we went to Versailles. I don't always pay for the walking tours, but I did that time and we got to know just how awful a human being Louis the XIV was. It was just so fascinating. So I just thought, geez, you know, I go to these types of places from time to time, and most of the time I don't pay for the tour. It's just kind of tragic to go to a place like that and not understand the history. So that's kind of what we tried to do with Talking Trail. And it really helps kind of in strengthening those connections, because we feel like when you have a stronger connection to a place, it’s probably going to increase your chances of coming back and telling people about it.”

The first trail started in 2013-2014 for the Old Red Trail in western North Dakota, which led to the Jamestown talking trail project, which weighed in at about 75 talking points.

Not much good came out of 2020, but one positive note for Brannan was that Talking Trails really started to get going...

“We're doing well, because I think people appreciate the fact that we're a Talking Trail, you're utilizing the technology that's already in your pocket. So you're not having to get the used foam headphone tour. Then in addition to that, I think, people have really recognized some of the beauty of our more local areas, whether it’s North Dakota or Minnesota. I think a lot of people are getting outdoors more and you know, when you get the chance, it's so much more impactful to know the history of a place versus just seeing a building or something like that.” 

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