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Thread: Watch the GPS or the Trail

  1. #1
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    Watch the GPS or the Trail

    Last Saturday six of us started up the "Ammo" trail towards clouds hut with the goal of getting Monroe and maybe Washington. We were in snow shoes for the start. I was on the Ammo two weeks ago and recognized landmarks. The lead/trail breaker had the gps/garmin, etc., He also said he likes to bushwhack. That was the first warning sign. We get past Monroe Brook and at a spot where there was a steep narrow ravine in front of us and below us an open pool that I recognized as crossing two weeks earlier I saw to the right of where we were standing a slight depression and churned up snow. I said this is the trail "to the right!" No the bushwhacker said the gps says got this way...up the ravine. So we followed. We lost close to a good hour pushing through the trees and DEEP snow. We finally got back to the trail and headed straight up to the hut. The hike leader and I were leading at this point.
    Okay, gps has it good points, but when one get's so focused on the screen and ignores clues/ signs along the way...then you have given up all common sense, brains to a machine that can quit on you with no notice or fall into the spruce trap, or into the water after the snow bridge collapses on you. Use your skills, your eyes/Observe, look for clues, your experience because those will be there, once the battery on the gps goes out you could be s.o.l. And don't ever give the gps to an guy who loves to bushwhack.
    LavaFalls

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    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
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    Hiking behavior is a microcosm of behavior in overall life. The same people, lost in their screens, are walking into tables at work, and crashing their cars. Sad to say, I think we have to get used to it. Be careful to stay out of their way, and hope Big Brother doesn't make you pay for their idiocy.

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    Senior Member Nessmuk's Avatar
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    I have long taught backcountry land navigation. I rarely if ever use a GPS when I hike for recreation, preferring for pleasure and experience to use traditional navigation methods. On the other hand, when I am crew boss during a SAR mission, I definitely use a GPS as required for logging and tracking of coverage area. In my land nav training presentation, I have a video showing a line of young people hiking a trail, boys and girls. All except for one girl is staring at the device in their hand and nothing else, not paying attention to anything else around them. The one girl is the only one with her head on a swivel, gazing left and right and ahead, no device is occupying her hand. The caption is "which one is aware of their surroundings and where they are and enjoying the hike?"
    Last edited by Nessmuk; 02-18-2019 at 09:09 PM.
    "She's all my fancy painted her, she's lovely, she is light. She waltzes on the waves by day and rests with me at night." - Nessmuk, Forest and Stream, July 21, 1880 [of the Wood Drake Canoe built for him by Rushton]

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    A consumer GPS is not the correct tool for micro navigating a trail. It doesn't have the accuracy, and the trails if shown are often misplaced.
    Steve H.
    NH4000 1976-1984
    NE4000 1984-1991

  5. #5
    Senior Member Raven's Avatar
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    Ammonoosuc Ravine often has numerous rogue trails leading to ski routes. The few tenths between the hut and treeline can also be confusing in low visibility. Followers beware.

    Personally, I don't lead hikes on trails with which I'm not familiar. YMMV.
    Humankind has not woven the web of life.
    We are but one thread within it.
    Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
    All things are bound together.
    All things connect.
    ~ Chief Seattle, 1854 ~

  6. #6
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    IMO, some folks are hiking to go to a destination and some are going hiking for the journey. If the goal is to cover the shortest trail distance in the least amount of time, go with the electronics. If the goal is to enjoy the territory and keep the skills sharp, then leave the electronics in the pack.

    Last year while on my friends redlining hikes east of RT 113, it was handy to have someone with GPS track to confirm some trails that seemed to be more suggested routes in the guide than actual maintained trails. We were not lost as we knew where we were and where we had to go but it was handy to realize that if we shifted out direction of travel slightly we could intersect what was at one time the maintained route and pick up some easier hiking conditions. I expect as the lesser trails in the wilderness areas get intentionally undermaintained that these situations will increase.


    The upper part of Ammo can really be problem after a snow storm or when a good track is not established. Folks tend to follow snowshoe tracks like lemmings. The somewhat infamous example of this is the Black Pond bushwhack, there have been some years that the established track is in no way the best path of least resistance yet once established it gets repeated use and become the default track.

  7. #7
    Senior Member CaptCaper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LavaFalls View Post
    Last Saturday six of us started up the "Ammo" trail towards clouds hut with the goal of getting Monroe and maybe Washington. We were in snow shoes for the start. I was on the Ammo two weeks ago and recognized landmarks. The lead/trail breaker had the gps/garmin, etc., He also said he likes to bushwhack. That was the first warning sign. We get past Monroe Brook and at a spot where there was a steep narrow ravine in front of us and below us an open pool that I recognized as crossing two weeks earlier I saw to the right of where we were standing a slight depression and churned up snow. I said this is the trail "to the right!" No the bushwhacker said the gps says got this way...up the ravine. So we followed. We lost close to a good hour pushing through the trees and DEEP snow. We finally got back to the trail and headed straight up to the hut. The hike leader and I were leading at this point.
    Okay, gps has it good points, but when one get's so focused on the screen and ignores clues/ signs along the way...then you have given up all common sense, brains to a machine that can quit on you with no notice or fall into the spruce trap, or into the water after the snow bridge collapses on you. Use your skills, your eyes/Observe, look for clues, your experience because those will be there, once the battery on the gps goes out you could be s.o.l. And don't ever give the gps to an guy who loves to bushwhack.
    LavaFalls
    As a licensed USCG Master Captain and Commerical Fisherman I've relied on GPS as well as maps since day one owned first gps in 1995. A GPS is a must for people today to have in the tool kit and use every hike. There would be many many alive today if they only owned and knew how to use even a cheaper gps. Know it's up to you on what I meant and what actions to take. I don't have all day to teach and show you how I use it in conjunction with maps. But in short wife and I turn on our gps's first thing in a hike and at the end. Track on all the time.
    I would never follow any one hiking but myself especially using a gps as a guide. I know few who really know how to use it in diverse conditions. They all drop the ball. As far as electronics. Maybe the Shuttle can use a hand held map to fly it into space for those opposed to gps's and electronics on land ,sea or air. I love my Garmin Montana with Glonass tuck it in my pouch in front of chest and go. I don't hike temps well below zero so a touch screen is fine. I have hiked in -13 below and had no issues with it running in the pouch that helps keep the heat while running all day. If you can't get it to run all day you don't know what your doing.
    Don't be one of those who has perished or lost cause they wouldn't learn or buy even a low budget gps. Garmin is the best on handhelds.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Barkingcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LavaFalls View Post
    I saw to the right of where we were standing a slight depression and churned up snow. I said this is the trail "to the right!" No the bushwhacker said the gps says got this way...up the ravine. So we followed....once the battery on the gps goes out you could be s.o.l.
    We know that exact spot -- and stay to the right, as well, to avoid floundering in that ravine. There are blazes on trees near there, too, if one knows to look for them. About batteries on the GPS going out: bring back-up batteries, naturally.

    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    If the goal is to enjoy the territory and keep the skills sharp, then leave the electronics in the pack...I expect as the lesser trails in the wilderness areas get intentionally undermaintained that these situations will increase.
    Yes -- the electronics stay in the pack, used as back-up if all else fails, which doesn't happen often -- in the winter mainly, or when we hike in the open desert (very useful then, especially for out-and-back treks where there are not many identifying landmarks for normal navigation).

    About wilderness areas, in NH and anywhere where there's snow: I've found the GPS useful for navigating some of these sections in winter, when the woods are open, the snow is deep, everything appears to be a corridor, and any remaining navigational skills are not panning out. But, 99 percent of the time, the unit stays in the pack.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Brambor's Avatar
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    I would not have followed. Just my 2 cents.
    Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.

  10. #10
    Senior Member jrbren's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LavaFalls View Post
    ... I was on the Ammo two weeks ago and recognized landmarks. ... I said this is the trail "to the right!" No the bushwhacker said the gps says got this way...up the ravine. So we followed. ...
    LavaFalls
    Wasn't it Obi-Wan Kenobi who asked, Who is the bigger fool, the fool or the fool who follows him ? Like Brambor, I would not have followed.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    Folks tend to follow snowshoe tracks like lemmings.
    Had several groups follow my tracks up not-Greenleaf this weekend. Hope they enjoyed the scenic route.

  12. #12
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    One factor in following the wrong route is in winter the wrong route can have twice the traffic. I have in the past in the winter followed a track where the trail was not evident and ended up outside someone's tent set up away from the trail. I and my group then head back to where we lost the trail and proceed onwards. Anyone coming to the junction now has a choice. The path to the tent has been traveled twice by us and the actual trail is the lesser used route.

  13. #13
    Senior Member jrbren's Avatar
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    I have done it many times myself, just yesterday I was on Wachusett and followed somone's boot tracks off the trail & into the brush on a trail I have been on many times and should know better. No harm no foul, I wanted to walk in the woods, so the error allowed me to do more if it ;-).

  14. #14
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    GPS is not a threat to everyone in the woods--sounds to me that if one of the parties had a compass the other party would disagree because he was looking at land features and his own memory.

    As an aside, so many watches these days have magnets to hold the watch to the charger...or they have large quantities of metal.. took me 5 minutes to realize why my baseplate compass would not sight correctly as I was headed to Garfield. Oddly, I took out my GPS and used its compass to try and figure out what could possibly be wrong, including a bad memory problem. Sure enough, somebody came along and started the GPS lecture.

    As an aside, many kayakers like to put a big carabiner on the release loop of their spray skirt. When you are underwater, its useful to have a sturdy motionless visible grab hook to pull the skirt off. The heaviest ones are made of ferrous iron, and by virtue of their position, they can end up near a deck compass...that was also an interesting lesson in Maine.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrbren View Post
    Wasn't it Obi-Wan Kenobi who asked, Who is the bigger fool, the fool or the fool who follows him ? Like Brambor, I would not have followed.
    I agree with you. I was close to following the trail I pointed out. But..as always, but, there was one slow/weak member in the group and six of us and the hike leader was strong on holding the group together, I agree with that.

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