I knew I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque

I’ve got mixed feelings about GPS units despite owning three of them. Originally I bought one to verify information that was on maps or satellite photos, helicopter landing zones and other random locations. Later I bought one to help me navigate around places I hadn’t been to and then I bought a third one to keep track of the amount of miles I hiked or biked.

As GPS technology has evolved, some places are using them to help guide tourists around cities and parks. In Shenandoah National Park for instance, they have implemented a GPS Ranger program which allows visitors to rent GPS units that have preloaded hikes and at certain points that are geotagged, photos, audio files or animations pop up to enhance the visitor’s experience.

Another example of GPS enhanced tours is in Charleston, SC where several companies offer units similar to the ones used at Shenandoah NP and I’m sure if you did a search you could find similar services in many other major cities. The benefits of such tours is that they allow users to move at their own pace rather than being herded with a group and rushed from point to point.

Of course geotagging is not necessarily for everyone or every project. Recently at work there was an announcement about the test planting of blight resistant American chestnuts that had survived their first growing season and were on their way to becoming a potential first step in the reintroduction of a species that had all but disappeared from forests.

In order to protect the test plots, the locations were kept secret and were not released to the public to prevent theft of the seedlings. There was concern when building the website, that some of the photographs may have been geotagged and that the coordinates would be available with the metadata. Although not all cameras are capable of adding this data and at present, external units must be added to many cameras in order to provide them with a GPS receiver. This is just one more feature of a camera that users must be aware of before using it. There are other times where the release of coordinates, even inadvertantly, may not be wanted, like archeological sites that are protected by federal laws.

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4 Responses to “I knew I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque”

  1. leslie20 Says:

    As an avid hiker when we’re vacationing, I have seen information either at info stations that discusses geotagging. We still haven’t quite figured it out, but it certainly sounds like it could be useful, especially in unfamiliar territory.

    We have a GPS for the car to help us navigate, and like that it lets us know about when we can expect to arrive or when the next gas station is coming up (when I remember to update the info). I’ve seen hiking GPS units which look like they would be very helpful as we have on occasion gotten turned around in the middle of a forest where trails are not clearly marked. Though we haven’t quite yet talked ourselves into the expense over adventure.

    As GPS units mature in capabilities, I could foresee the opportunity to download hike information, as well as, for hiking areas to assist hikers in identifying the best hike for their physical condition based on terrain that they could see instead of the usual elevation gain and distance information. No tunlike what you link to for Shenandoah National Park, but actually enabling downloading into a hiker’s GPS from a National Parks or Forest Service Web site.

  2. karenswvu77 Says:

    Chris…on GPS units. I resisted for a LONG time, as well. I am an expert ‘map reader’ and am not the least bit directionally challenged. I became a (mild) convert when on a trip to Chicago, I was forced to activate the app on my iPhone that used GPS to tell me where I was, and where I needed to be. (Cabbie had NO CLUE.) Just a note to say that it’s often the need for the use of technology that forces us to reconsider our ‘former stance’. :)Karen

  3. tb72182 Says:

    You get the award for best blogs in the class! You’re blogs are great to read. I never heard of this “geotagging” concept. An entire blog can be written about just that. I like the one that keeps track of the miles you have hiked. Do you recommend getting one?

    • csrose118 Says:

      I think it really depends on what you are thinking about doing. Since I “grew up” reading maps I am more comfortable carrying those than GPS units, especially due to environmental factors like weather. That being said, they are a great tool. A friend of mine started a website dedicated to mapping hiking trails and carries a GPS on every hike that he uploads to the web. Having data from someone that has actually hiked the trails is a great reference for people seeking information. The website is http://www.trailheadfiner.com

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