JW Powell’s Trailmetrics 2017 (alpha): Running of the bears

  1. A proposal for trailmetrics: Defining HARM and AWE
  2. Doing some HARM: Comparing crossing the street to walking to the South Pole
  3. JW Powell’s Trailmetrics 2017 (alpha): Running of the bears

By: Richard W. Sharp

What do John Madden and the Oregon Trail have in common? Da Bears!

Combining a penchant for hiking, gaming, and numerical simulation we’ve cooked up a little bit of fun to accompany the Trail Metrics series: Madden NFL style simulation of repeated hikes through your favorite bear-infested woods (possible expansion pack: wolves, coyotes, and alligators, oh my!). We’re putting out a preview today of our alpha simulator1 with some initial results from a recent trip to Glacier National Park’s Belly River.2

So what do the numbers say?

Here’s a graph of HARM vs. Bear attacks per mile. For the purposes of this demo, we’re using bear attacks to represent all possible dangers on the trail. Because it’s really just a handy heuristic personification of an abstract known frequency of risk, anyways. And because da bears are awesome.

Click graph to enlarge (opens in new tab).

The Belly River Trail

# simulations run Hiker mass ratio Elevation gain (ft) Distance (mi) Tot. # bear attacks Avg. survivors (of 4) Avg. trip time Avg. Powells Avg. HARM Avg. mi/bear
1,000,000 1.24 4495 ft 25.67 mi 382 3.999997 9.510 hrs .223 0.008767 6098 mi/bear

Note: This is just a running demo for one sample trail and it’s super-super-super-super rough. I’m not kidding about the “alpha”. Improvements to come!

Future goal: I’m shooting for a playable sim with either preset variables (for journeys of known HARM) or of a custom trail that you, the audience, can input. Basically, a build-your-own backpacking simulator.


1 In the spirit of collaboration with attribution, the simulator is released under the MIT Licence.

2 Ah Montana, land of the freeze and home of the bears – that was a good trip, but I think next year somewhere warmer would be good.

About The Author

Richard is a Seattle area data scientist who builds predictive models and the services that deliver them. He earned a PhD in Applied and Computational Math from Princeton University, and left academia for the dark side of science (industry) in 2010, following his wife to the land of flannel. Fan of coffee, beer, backpacking and puns. Enjoys a day on the lake fishing, and, better, cooking up the catch for a crowd.

1 Comment on "JW Powell’s Trailmetrics 2017 (alpha): Running of the bears"

  1. Patrick W. Zimmerman

    @rsharp, we should have a variable for type of bear.

    Black bears, brown bears, and polar bears have an increasing detrimental effect on hiker health.

    Yogi bears reduce your food supply.

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