Summer-Fall 2010 Telluride Magazine

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g aro n i u t

GPS

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doug berry / istockphoto.com

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Not nerdy enough for you? Smart Nearly everyone’s been in a phone owners can also download car with a GPS unit—an electronic, online maps and have a clear track feminine voice calmly and politely with way-pointed directions during coaching the driver to turn left at their hike or ride. “There are lots of the next intersection or merge onto companies that provide hikes locally, the freeway at the upcoming ramp. so you can actually load [GPS tracks of] Perhaps it was too dark to see the those hikes while you’re in town and see turnoff you were looking for, but the where to turn, where the best viewpoints hushed voice from the dashboard guided are, where to camp. This kind of application you safely to grandma’s new retirement By Mackenzie Ryan doubles as a personal navigator on the trail, as home. Now, Global Positioning System units well as giving you access to a database of trails,” are everywhere: There are numerous GPS models says Wagner. For example, backpacker.com offers free and brands, some available in phones. Even technologydownloads of Telluride’s popular Bear Creek hike or the highesthating, outdoorsy people are jumping on the GPS bandwagon. elevation, long-distance trail in America, the Colorado Trail. Hiking in the woods, a GPS system won’t tell you to turn left at Smart phone GPS systems do have disadvantages: Should you the next tree. But it can prevent you from getting lost in Lizard Head drop your precious mode of communication onto a rock, you risk Wilderness or tell you how many calories you burned climbing Mount the loss of your phone for the remainder of your trip. To boot, GPS Wilson and El Diente. Or, if trails are not well-signed or overgrown, it can technology burns up battery power like an SUV does gasoline. be the difference between a great day and wandering back after dark. Most backcountry enthusiasts prefer to use a traditional GPS, Owners of “smart” phones are the biggest group of newcomers maps and a compass for off-trail navigation. Avid backpackers might to the world of GPS geekdom. BlackBerrys, Androids and iPhones favor these types of units, which will hold up during rugged hikes can do it all. They come with inexpensive mapping applications that or cross-country travel. This kind of wayfinding requires map-andallow you to upload your GPS track immediately onto an online map compass orienteering skills. Beginners who want a durable, easyand see valuable stats, such as elevation gain and loss, mileage, to-use unit can pick up the Garmin Dakota 20, says Wagner. It’s speed and calories burned. “You can essentially turn your phone waterproof, runs on AA batteries and has a touch screen that reads into a GPS, collect your hike or your ride [data], and then share the well under direct sunlight. photos you took along the way with friends and family later on,” says Unfamiliar with backcountry travel but still want to learn some Kris Wagner, marketing director for GPS-software juggernaut, Trimble orienteering? Visitors and locals who desire an education in routeOutdoors. The benefit with these applications, he says, is that “you finding can take a custom course on off-trail navigation at San Juan don’t have to know anything about GPS. They are designed so you Outdoor School/Telluride Alpinism. Owner Tara Butson says her can turn them on, hit start, and the device knows what to do.” professional guides teach clients how to read a topographical map and Another advantage of the iPhone’s GPS capability is that you how to use a map, compass and GPS. Guides try to incorporate the don’t need to be staring at the screen while you’re outside playing, lesson into a specific goal, such as reaching a particular peak or doing Wagner says. “It’s as easy as pushing play on your iPod, letting it a scavenger hunt. “The real reason people get lost,” says Butson, “is collect all the information, and hitting stop when you’re done. Then, g that they don’t read the map.” when you go online, it’s all there.”

The ultra-simple GPS device, “SPOT,” is meant to transmit your whereabouts in the wilderness, in case you need to be rescued. SPOT users buy the unit and pay for an annual subscription, and in return they can call for help or be located on a Google Map, even at elevations of up to 21,000 feet or in temperatures as low as -40 degrees. The device can’t transmit specific messages but can signal that the user is okay, needs non-emergency help or is in a critical “911” situation. In addition, SPOT offers a tracking service that allows you to plot your route by sending and saving waypoints. It also avails your social networking: You can broadcast your latest trek to smart phones and web links via the SPOT shared page. summer/fall 2010

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