Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Cheery- Voiced GPS Can Kill You

I am clueless when it comes to high tech gadgets and I am not sure it will change much in 2010. Just before heading off to Mt Kilimanjaro in October I purchased a high tech Suunto Watch with all the bells and whistles to track my movements and altititude and weather: Couldn't figure it out and so I left that pricey device  home. Strapped on my $35 analog Timex Expedition watch that told time only and I was good to go and made the summit. Give me a compass any day over a GPS unit and I feel safe and within my comfort zone.  I'll watch the sun's position, look for trail signs and when bush whacking have a landmark in sight and listen to the water, wind and ravens. But I'll confess: GPS is here to stay and can and does save lives and certainly adds comfort and safety and ease to those who know how to use their device and - this is important - know when to check a map.  Safe to say some of you will use your first GPS unit in 2010. Don't let it kill you as it almost did to a couple in eastern Oregon last week.  The vacationers programmed their unit to take them the shortest route through an isolated high desert/mountain area: and that it did, GPS unit said 40 miles in 30 minutes. However the cheerful voice sent them down an unmaintained, backcountry Forest Service Road ---where they became stuck in snow. Rescue came three days later.  Lesson to be learned : Use your GPS but always carry a map in the car to check the route--first--and to serve as a backup. And when hiking, bring a trail map and compass. Happy New Year and good trails to you. Shortest routes are not always the best choices.


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