Please visit our new site, GPSTracklog.com.
Please visit our new site, GPSTracklog.com.
My posting frequency has been down a bit lately, as I just returned from a “working vacation” – how’s that for an oxymoron? Nevertheless, my wife and I had fun exploring New Mexico and a bit of Colorado, but our outdoor adventures were mostly in Southern New Mexico. I like describing and posting tracks of our hikes and bike rides (and how I prepped our GPS receivers for them), so if it’s your cup of tea, read on. If not, regular programming will return following this post!
My wife (who is also my partner in outdoor adventure) is five months pregnant, so this won’t be a report of crazy adventures, filled with mountain bike crashes and off-trail adventures in canyons. This trip was comprised of relatively sedate hikes. In addition to those listed below, we also did shorter jaunts in Petroglyph National Monument (Albuquerque, NM) and Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs, CO), but the tracks there aren’t long enough to be of much use to anyone. So without further delay…
Last year I reported on a geocaching Christmas, now a firmly ensconced family tradition. For those of you not familiar with geocaching, it's a way to have fun with your GPS and get kids out of the house and hiking. And if you just got your first GPS, geocaching is a great introduction to GPS navigation.
Daisy Mae Duck is the lucky bird that hitched a ride to California, where she awaits her next trip at Ploverlook in MacKerricker State Park. According to Daisy Mae's web page, she wants to travel and see places like Florence, Tuscany, London, Australia, New Zealand and Germany. If you can help her out, give her a lift.
Last week I posted about preparing my GPS and maps for a mountain biking vacation around Lake Tahoe, and it's high time for a trip report. My wife and I got in four good rides, and here are the highlights and GPX track files for each:
Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) and the Flume
We were a little nervous about topping 8,000 feet our first day, but there was only a thousand feet or so of climbing, so what better way to acclimate to elevation? We took the Mt. Rose shuttle, and had a great deal of fun on top of the ridge on the TRT, even though we were feeling the elevation. The Flume Trail portion was a bit disappointing, and not nearly as scary as we had been warned. Then again, we were riding it on a weekday, so there was little traffic coming at us. The photo at right is a shot of Sand Harbor, from the Flume Trail.
I returned a couple of days ago from a week long mountain biking vacation at Lake Tahoe and Downieville, California. I had wanted to ride many of these trails for years and since I had not ridden them before, prior to going I downloaded tracks that others had posted online. Most of them came from MotionBased, although I did get a file of the Tahoe Rim Trail from National Geographic TOPO!'s mapXchange. Tracks from the latter are much easier to use now (even for non-TOPO owners), thanks to the newly minted ability of GPSBabel to convert .tpo track files from TOPO!
So I layered the downloaded tracks and waypoints on maps I then printed with TOPO!, constructed routes, transferred maps and tracks to my GPS, etc. But once on the trail, I was reminded what a useful tool these pre-loaded tracks are for navigation, especially when you are moving fast on a bike. The image at the left is one such track. Notice that I set the track color to blue.
The screen image to the right gives you an idea what this looks like in the field, as my actual track (in red) overlays the pre-loaded track as I progress along the trail. (These are reconstructed images, so the current position cursor is missing; I did not take my laptop on the ride to do screen captures!) With this sort of setup, it's easy to see at a glance if you've taken a wrong turn.
Now I do have a few caveats:
My wife and I went on our weekly mountain bike ride today, and of course we took our GPS receivers along for the ride! I was kind of excited about it; we were going to ride a trail in dense redwoods that I had never been able to map due to poor satellite reception. But today I had my Garmin 60CSx along, which has the SiRFstar III chipset on board.
Now when I say dense, I do mean dense. Redwoods are actually a low biodiversity plant community; very little grows on the forest floor due to their dense shade. I've heard it said that native Americans here didn't like the redwoods -- that they are downright spooky. More likely it was just the lack of game and edible plants, but you get the idea.
The trail we rode, Manly Gulch, is as challenging as it sounds -- narrow and technical, with steep dropoffs. The photo at left is of me coming around a tight curve between two redwoods. The trail section pictured is a narrow perched run set between a cut redwood stump on the upper side and a retaining wall on the lower side.
But to make a long story short, the 60CSx and SiRFstar III performed admirably, as can be seen in the map posted at right. I've seen my 60CSx get a lock inside, and I knew it had greatly improved reception over the 60CS, but it was still nice to see it all work so well where it counts.
Awhile back, I posted a couple of items about SnowRanger Ski Resort Maps. I had wanted to test out their software and report back on it, but alas, I'm not going to Tahoe or Coolorado this winter. I did however get in a brief trip this weekend to the Ski and Snowboard Park at Mt. Shasta (picture at left), and used my trusty Garmin GPSMap 60CS to record the track.
I was really curious to see how well this would work. I tethered my GPSr and stuck it in the outside mesh pocket of my CamelBak. The results are shown on an aerial photo generated using TopoFusion, at right.
It picked up a few stray track points, but generally it worked pretty well. You can probably pick out the chairlift in the picture! Shasta is a small ski park, and I don't think I would need a GPS for navigation even for a large park, but it was still a fun exercise.
When my family gathers at Christmas, it's become a tradition to take the kids out geocaching. The first trip, a number of years back, was actually my own introduction to GPS, as documented on page one of my book. So today, we gathered the clan and headed out to Heron Cove, AKA GCJQ4A.
I really look forward to our annual outing since, even though I frequent Geocaching.com's GPS units and software message board, I don't make it out for geocaching that often. The air this morning was a bit nippy, but the day was beautiful, and the outing proved a welcome respite from airports, rental cars and gluttonous feasts.
Geocaching is a great family activity, and I don't know any better way to get kids out hiking a couple of miles on a frosty morning. For some reason, a high-tech treasure hunt is more palatable than a "hike," which must be perceived by many kids as some sort of forced march.
And yes, we did find the cache.
I've posted several PhotoFusion pages from the recent Southern California desert trip my wife and I took. Check this link out for more on geocoded photos, including how to use the PhotoFusion pages. Here are the links along with the .gpx files for anyone interested:
Oh yeah, if you want the whole trip report, I've posted it over on the SoCal Mtbr.com board.
I just returned from vacation, during which time I tested a Garmin GPSMap 60CS and Magellan Meridian Platinum side-by-side to check for accuracy in a canyon. Canyons, both natural and urban are notorious for the phenomenon known as multipath -- the reflection of signals off canyon walls. GPS receivers work by calculating the time it takes for signals to be received from GPS satellites, so signals bouncing off canyon walls are delayed slightly, thereby introducing error.
The test was conducted in Sheep Canyon (picture at right), in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Sheep Canyon is not a tight slot canyon, but it is a canyon nonetheless. I must have had good satellite coverage, because I never lost the signal lock the entire day.
To see visual evidence of the difference between reception in the two units, check out the tracks on the aerial photo to the left. The Garmin track is in red, the Magellan in blue. I have one caveat here...It appears that the Garmin collected much more detail, but the Magellan is my wife's GPSr, and I'm not as familiar with it. Once I saw this image, I checked and discovered that the Magellan was not set to acquire as detailed of a tracklog as possible. Apart from that, the most interesting thing I see is that both units recorded at least one stray track point, far away from our position. On the basis of this, I'd rate their performance as comparable.
This canyon wasn't tight enough to reduce reception much, but the topography did contribute to the stray track points. You can visit my other website to see the entire tracklog and geocoded photos, and this page on GPS Tracklog provides more information on geocoding photos with TopoFusion. Finally, stay tuned; over the next week or so I'll have some more posts related to our GPS vacation.