February 26, 2010

My Tracks: Fort Yargo State Park

View Fort Yargo State Park in a larger map

About a month ago I realized I was up for a new phone with Verizon. I had been debating about the value of a smartphone for some time, weighing the extra 30 bucks a month for internet services against my curiosity. Would it actually be useful? Is it a toy or tool? I was thinking both; we spend a lot of time away from home on the weekends and I'd love to have a way to write (electronically) while I'm away, take pictures, records, etc.

So I picked up a Droid Eris. It's been remarkably fun to use for news and Twitter in particular, as well as useful for synching notes on the go with my Google Docs account and I'm starting to really get the hang of it. My Tracks is the application that generated the map above, allowing you to record your trips along Google maps (it's network independent, can use GPS). It's an interesting way to log ours hikes and incorporate photos describing specific locations. Most of the waypoints I added as I took the photo.

Fort Yargo was the first experiment. It doesn't work when we walk at home because of the electromagnetic clusterfrak created by the local military airport I'm assuming. It can't get a GPS signal 80 percent of the time. But the Yargo trip was mostly accurate. I had the sensitivity and recording frequency set too high, which created the jagged pathing you see and effectively doubled the distance traveled (and messed up speeds and other measures). Originally, it said we hiked 19 km in 3 hours. Next time I'll see if the new settings help, especially when transversing wooded areas where the signal can get disrupted.

The best part about it is that the program runs in the background and needs little attention, only when you're setting a waypoint. I think there's a camera sync too, where you can take the picture and immediately set it to be incorporated with the map. I'll have to play with it some more.

Fort Yargo is more of a recreational park. The walk was nice and long and it was a beautiful day, but the lake was drained for construction purposes and there were very large corridors of cleared forest, some of which seemed to be in the process of growing back, like at the "Clearing" waypoint.

The park is named for a fort built in the area in 1792. There were reenactors bustling around bonfires and black kettles up by the log cabin at the beginning of the trail, but Oscar isn't the biggest fan of strangers in weird clothes (much barking at the mountain bikers we shared the trail with).

I think we're going to head over to Hard Labor Creek next, maybe this weekend or the following.

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