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Quick response codes tell the story of the Uwharrie Trail

Volunteer Intern, U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina
November 5th, 2014 at 9:30PM

A photo of audio stop post with a QR code Hikers of a popular trail in North Carolina’s Piedmont region can now have a personally guided tour, with no other person present.

Boy Scout Chris Moncrief has created a listening tour for hikers along the Uwharrie National Recreation Trail using Quick Response (QR) codes. QR codes are machine-readable codes consisting of black and white squares that, when scanned, are capable of providing a spectrum of information. 

In locations with cell phone service, hikers can scan the QR codes with their smartphones and get a short story corresponding with the area. Some trail locations are out of cell phone reach, so users have the option of downloading the stories beforehand and listening as they reach the sites.

Moncrief worked with Rebecca Schoonover, intern with The LandTrust for Central North Carolina and several other volunteers to record the project. Much of the text for the script came from writings by Crystal Cockman, the associate director for The LandTrust, Ruth Ann Grissom, Kevin Redding and trail founder Joe Moffitt. Cockman also manages and maintains the website where the stories are posted.

The goal of this project was to document the stories and folklore of the Uwharrie National Forest. Schoonover got involved with the audio tour in the summer of 2013. Her motivation for the project was the challenge it presented – compiling all the information that gives context to the Uwharrie Trail. A lot of the historic and cultural knowledge of the area had been passed down informally, through word of mouth, in legends and ghost stories.

“We wanted people who couldn’t necessarily sit down with the experts on the area to be able to find the information anyway, especially if and when they are planning to go into the Uwharries,” Schoonover said.

After Schoonover created a clear vision for the trail project, Moncrief began to bring it to life with his voice and hard work.

“We talked about themes and I began writing a script – a story that matched each GPS point,” said Schoonover. “I drew from conversations I had with folks, resources such as Joe Moffitt’s ‘An Afternoon Hike into the Past’ and Fred Morgan’s ‘Ghost Tales of the Uwharries’.”

With Forest Service permission, Moncrief installed posts with QR codes at 24 spots along the 40-mile Uwharrie National Recreational Trail, excluding the wilderness area. The Trail was constructed by Boy Scouts and hiking enthusiasts in the late 1960s and was originally 50 miles long.

Using the Uwharrie Trail as the link, Moncrief wants to celebrate a shared natural and local heritage of this area, which is so special to many people.

“I believe everybody will benefit from the audio recordings that are linked to the QR codes,” said Moncrief. “My project helps the community learn about its culture, history and nature of its environment. I hope that it will teach people in our community our past and what we can be capable of doing in the future.”