Mary’s Monday Metazoan: It’s the non-transparent bits that are rather gross »« Rooting for the home team for the first time

The New iOS Maps App Will Kill You

… that is, if you try to use it to navigate your way through the desert.

I won’t make a habit of just linking to the stuff I write elsewhere without expanding on it substantially for the Horde’s benefit*, but I’ve been following stories of people who die because they rely on online maps for way too long, and I don’t want to read about any of you in the paper. Like I did the Danish tourists who were looking for the U2 Joshua Tree 260 miles from where the tree actually used to be, based on an internet fan club map.

If any of you are going to have an uncomfortable time in the desert based on questionable online advice, I’d much rather it be because we set up some Pharyngula Desert 2013 kinda deal and we ran out of single-malt on day 2. Rather than that permanent thing.

So go read. And heed.

* note: no actual benefit may result

Comments

  1. raven says

    I’d much rather it be because we set up some Pharyngula Desert 2013 kinda deal and we ran out of single-malt on day 2.

    ????

    Gin and tonics are much better. Heavy on the tonic water.

    Anyone who hasn’t been in the SW deserts in dry temps well over 100 degrees F., has no idea how much water you need to drink in a day.

    It’s lots. More than you can imagine.

    Hottest I’ve seen it was one place in southern Utah where the last thermometer we saw said somthing like 116 degrees. A couple of us were from Scandinavia and their minds boggled and shut down. Apparently it never gets any where near that hot there.

  2. raven says

    but I’ve been following stories of people who die because they rely on online maps for way too long,…

    Lately that has been 1 or 2 people a year, dead in the mountains of the west coast after getting stuck in snow drifts.

    Some of these people disappear and haven’t yet been found. Others turn up when the snow melts in late spring.

  3. says

    Your safety tips look very good to me.

    I would also recommend – and this isn’t specific to the desert, of course – letting at least one person know where you’re planning to go, where you’re leaving from, and what map/GPS/whatever you’re using. (I haven’t always followed this, but should have in most cases.)

    some Pharyngula Desert 2013 kinda deal

    I’d be down for that.

  4. F says

    I can’t wrap my brain around the trust people put in phones, their apps, and web services. Or the extent to which people will ignore reality in favor of what a car GPS/map system tells them, so far as to drive over an embankment or such.

  5. Colin J says

    A few years ago, on a winter holiday in Canada & the USA, we took a GPS thingy with us for the first time. It was brilliant, especially when it came to finding our way through cities or to a particular address.

    But when it came to country driving it tried to send us along roads that were closed in winter and it wasn’t very good at knowing exactly where we were. On one particularly stressful drive up a mountainside in the snow in the dark, the GPS was convinced we were a couple of hundred metres south of our actual position and it kept giving us useless directions to try and get us back on the road.

    I reckon these mapping tools are great but I would NEVER follow one without checking it against a road map.

    Mind you, we wouldn’t have been driving in the dark if we hadn’t lost an hour by following the GPS’s instructions and turning the wrong way onto the highway after our lunch stop. It pays to check the position of the sun as well as a road map!

  6. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    I’d much rather it be because we set up some Pharyngula Desert 2013 kinda deal and we ran out of single-malt on day 2

    Sign me up.

    ‘cept i’ll bring a bigger stash so we don’t run out.

  7. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Anyone who hasn’t been in the SW deserts in dry temps well over 100 degrees F., has no idea how much water you need to drink in a day.

    It’s lots. More than you can imagine.

    Used to spend a month or so a year climbing in Zion.

    We avoided the 100 degree temps because we hit in the spring or fall but even at 80-85 you need a shit load. Ad we had to haul all that water up the walls.

    And you’re right. It is a lot.

  8. Ogvorbis: broken and cynical says

    When headed to a wildland fire (no, this is not a fire story), I download googlemaps, mapquest, and then compare that to the written directions that are provided on the resource order. Once, they were in three different counties. Admittedly, this is mounains, not desert, but . . .

    Anyone who hasn’t been in the SW deserts in dry temps well over 100 degrees F., has no idea how much water you need to drink in a day.

    It’s lots. More than you can imagine.

    Wanna bet? (That was meant as humour, not an insult) When I was at the High Park Fire in Fort Collins, CO, the highs were 100 to 105F. One day, I kept track — 17 litres of water and 3 litres of gatorade in 12 hours. And I did not piss. My shit, however, was white and crusty.

    some Pharyngula Desert 2013 kinda deal

    I read that as dessert. Mmmm. Desert.

    I reckon these mapping tools are great but I would NEVER follow one without checking it against a road map.

    Yup. At one fire in Idaho, the official USFS maps were next to useless. The logging and mining roads, when checked by GPS mapping, were sometimes off by two miles. Or the road didn’t exist. Or the road existed, but was nowhere on the map.

  9. says

    At one fire in Idaho, the official USFS maps were next to useless.

    For traveling in the California Desert, the Bureau of Land Management’s maps are best,

    Map Wars, coming in spring to NatGeo. (I wish.)

  10. Ogvorbis: broken and cynical says

    SC:

    Keep in mind, the Idaho fire on the Salmon/Challis National Forest was in 2000. As the budget allows, they are improving them. And, even better, for fires, they are digitized in multiple layers. Makes it easier to go in and ask for maps showing roads (with names), DPs, and property lines. Beats the old forest maps with hand lettered corrections everywhere.

    My one BLM fire? The maps were pretty good. Of course, I was just babysitting helicopters all night, so take that with a grain of salt.

  11. Larry says

    Hottest I’ve seen it was one place in southern Utah where the last thermometer we saw said somthing like 116 degrees.

    Just got back from 2 weeks driving vacation in the four corners region including Chaco Canyon. Temps were in 70-80 degree range, crowds were down, skies were saturated blue. That is the time of year to visit the area. I had my GPS with me but I would never, ever, rely on it for the back-of-beyond roads out there. I always carry a map.

  12. says

    I did some work with Joshua Trees with my advisor when I was an undergrad, and we encountered a similar problem. Specifically, Google recognized mostly random areas where there was little vegetation as roads, and we ended up nearly driving into a hidden ravine.

  13. Ogvorbis: broken and cynical says

    Hottest I have seen was the summer of 1971. For nine straight days our high was 139F. Of course, I am cheating. We lived at Death Valley at the time. But it was a dry heat.

    At a fire in Idaho back in 2001, I was working at night, sleeping during the day. In a tent. In 120F to 115F heat. Until we finally got the safety officer to put his foot down and put the three night-shift security in hotel. We rotated the use of the cot.

    One year, I was a fire in Idaho (different fire). When I got back to turn my rental truck in (a Jeep Commander (how the hell do they get so little room inside such a big vehicle?)), the manager hit the bar code on the windshield and explained that he had to put a $1500 lien on my credit card. I asked why, and he explained that it was because, according to the GPS system under the hood, I took it offroad and there may be damage. I explained that, 1, I was not offroad, I was on USFS roads which may not be on their maps and, 2, the emergency federal contract under which I rented it states that there are no limits as to where I can go. I could drive across the state off-road and as long as I could show it to be fire related, not much they can do. He checked the paperwork, apologized, and then asked why none of the other 40-or-so people who had turned in vehicles there knew that. I had no idea.

    Sorry for the fire stories but maps and temps tend to do that to me.

  14. carlie says

    And if you’re going anywhere where there are mountains, spring for topo maps. I have a friend who, although map-savvy, ended up crawling along up hideously narrow, dangerous edge mountain roads for hours (to go about 10 miles total) when they could have taken a low road that avoided it all, but both looked equivalent on the non-topo map.

  15. says

    I’ve heard stories like this before, and never could understand the trust people put in online maps. And this is coming from a hardcore techie. Maybe it’s that I know these maps aren’t magic. I’m sorry – I don’t trust Gmaps nearly as much as I do my Thomas Brothers road map (and I don’t trust paper maps to be perfect or up to date). I also feel if I actually plan my route by hand, versus letting Gmaps do it, then I actually understand my course.

  16. says

    The story of the Danish couple strikes a chord with me, as I’ve found that I really enjoy looking for obscure places on vacation, getting lost and finding something else just as interesting. In an urban environment. But looking for a Gundam statue in Tokyo is way different from looking for a tree in a desert. Even without this warning, I hope I wouldn’t be so daft as to go into a dangerous environment without looking to survival measures first (I learned basic Japanese before going to Japan). I think I understand their motivations, though.

    I think I’ve learned a slightly hard way about the unreliability of electronic maps, through having been fined twice in one day for driving the wrong way along the same one-way street, thanks to my GPS database not being up to date. (Once going and once coming back. How the fuck did that happen?) (And listening to my GPS rather than paying attention to the road signs, I admit it.)

    The other thing that Google Maps has trouble with is pastadamned house numbers in the UK. I guess in the nice regular streets of the US, dividing the length of the street by the largest building number on the street and generating the positions of other houses from that probably works well. Over here, with all the wild topology of our twisty-turny roads and their long histories, that doesn’t work well at all. You’d think that displacing a hotel next to an international airport by half-a-mile would be the kind of thing that would tell Google that their mapping algorithms aren’t working, but apparently not. I shudder to think how much worse Apple Maps has to be to raise so much ire as it has. (I got an old iPad, too old for the latest system update, so I’ve been spared that.)

  17. g.amis says

    Many years ago, my wife and I were sailing in the Caribbean with her parents. My FIL compared our anchorage as read from his GPS with the chart. According to the chart, we were anchored on top of a 150ft hill. (In fairness, the charts were based on 18th c. Admiralty surveys.)

  18. Ogvorbis: broken and cynical says

    Pharyngula Desert 2013

    This. Needs. To. Happen. That is all.

    Burning Squid.

    That’s a great idea. Should get lots of ink.

  19. bad Jim says

    I can’t imagine someone using anything but a topo map in rugged terrain. In the high Sierra it’s all you need; a compass is nearly superfluous because the landforms are so distinctive. The USGS maps are what I’ve always used, but I don’t get around much anymore.

    One of my nephews lives near Escondido in northeastern San Diego county, and I always check Google maps before driving down to see him because sometimes a new road has opened that shortens the route by a mile or two.

  20. DLC says

    I’ve had good luck with geological survey maps, but I also remember that, as the semanticists say, the map is not the territory. when at all possible, navigate by prominent landmarks and compass bearings. In the desert, when just walking, remember that most people start the day at less than 70% hydration to begin with, and pack as much water as you need. Then add more.
    Avoid sugary drinks and coffee.

  21. mildlymagnificent says

    I hope I wouldn’t be so daft as to go into a dangerous environment without looking to survival measures first

    Oh, I dunno. We occasionally have tourists in Australia with absolutely no idea, none, zilch, nada, of just how big the place is. The bloke who set off from Adelaide to ride. his. bike. through the desert to Alice Springs – with no food or water to speak of – was fortunately headed off before he got into any real strife on his 1500+km adventure. This was long before the days of electronic maps – he’d probably be better off – because he had no map at all.

    Even some country people get into strife. They think they know what they’re doing, but the remote outback needs you to take a. lot. of. water – not to mention an extra spare tire and a whole heap of other tedious life-saving gear – because you never, ever know when you might be stopped for a day or two for half a dozen unforeseen reasons.

  22. dave1845 says

    This reminds me of the death of James Kim. He followed google maps in winter in the Siskiyou mountains of southern Oregon. I did my PhD at U. Oregon and have driven through the Siskiyous in winter on interstate I-5. They’re high mountains with lots of moisture and lots of snow. When there’s a storm in the winter even on I-5 you WILL chain up, and it WILL be white-knuckle driving. Even professional long-haul truckers hate it and chaining up is legally required in a storm. James Kim trusted google maps, took a couple of wrong turns and ended up on in the disorientating maze of one lane logging road switchbacks far from anywhere and died of hypothermia while searching for help for his stranded family.

    In grad school my favorite place to be outside of the lab was in Oregon’s Coast Range. Miles from anywhere, on any given road I’d be that week’s traffic. I used the gold standard DeLorme atlas, and in the areas I became familiar with I made a good number of corrections to the map. That map was made to the standard of cartographers. Google maps and this iphone POS are made to the standards of computer programmers. If you’ve used Microsoft excel or tried to get a video card to run properly on Linux you would never, ever trust with your life a map that only met programmers’ standards. Unfortunately James Kim and these people in the desert did. Worse they didn’t respect their surroundings which can easily be a fatal mistake.

  23. thomasbloom says

    You could use Openstreetmap.org. Not that it’s better than other maps (it isn’t in the US, it is in Europe), but you can change it, and it’s free.

  24. says

    People get themselves in serious danger due to lack of caution and preparation in the western US all the time. All you have to do to get a lifetime’s worth of stories is hike on either the Bright Angel or South Kaibab trails in the Grand Canyon. Any time I hike in the Canyon — and it’s been too long, almost four years now — I take three times the water I’m going to need, because I always find myself pouring it down the throats of people who are bright red.

    Last time I hiked down to the River and back — which took a sane and safe four days, counting two nights eating steak at Phantom Ranch — I saw at least three pairs of people who were trying to hike out the South Kaibab in late morning after hiking down to the river, all in one day, with a liter of water each.

    If you sit at Mile and a half house on the Bright Angel Trail in Summer, you get to watch the Park Rangers single out people they think look stupid enough to try to head all the way to the river and back, and talk them out of it. Some of them are ultramarathoners. But even an ultramarathoner needs more water than you can contain in a half-liter squeeze bottle to hike 9.5 miles to the river and then 9.5 miles back up, with about 4,500 feet of climb.

    The Grand Canyon is merely the place where that kind of foolishness gets concentrated. It’s all over the southwest. My ex- once plucked a couple out of the slickrock near Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands N.P. They’d been lost and thirsty for a few hours. This was after losing their way on a 1.2-mile trail. She still gets Christmas cards from them.

  25. Crudely Wrott says

    Others on this thread have mentioned topographical maps. I feel that it is necessary to mention them again. With special emphasis on actually knowing how to read them.

    Pro tip: Obtain a topo map of an area that you know well. Obtain and learn how to use a compass. Doesn’t need to be expensive.

    Compare the map to the terrain. Walk about. Look at the map. Look at the terrain. Look at the compass. Look at the sky.

    Take bearings. Draw lines on the map. Leave marks along your trail. Pay attention. Look with your eyes.

    If you do these things you will never be lost. You might, from time to time, not know exactly where you are or how to get to where you want to go, but if you understand the lay of the land and topo maps and compasses and landmarks you will, I repeat, will find your way home.

    Battery operated, ethereally informed devices are no substitute for your own eyes and your own brains.

    When the batteries die, you are all you have. Learn how to walk to and fro and go up and down upon the face of the Earth all by your own self. That is a primal and essential skill — if you lack it you are not quite fully human.

    Now, take a hike. ;->
    See you when you get back.

  26. chigau (違わない) says

    Crudely Wrott
    ramen.
    I spent my first 20mumble years as an archaeologist using map and compass.

  27. Crudely Wrott says

    @ Chris, 32:

    My father told this story of a meeting of opposites. Pap was in the cow camp up on a small drainage called Crooked Creek in NW Wyoming. The camp itself is right on the creek which, when I was a sprout, was full of tasty little brook trout. The surrounding area was fairly level alpine meadow with lots of water and lots of feed. Springs and small riffles fed beaver dams and much of the ground was wet. That’s why we put the cattle there in the summer months, of course. Lots of feed.

    Anyhow, there came a knock on the cabin door one evening. Opening the door my father was face to face with a fellow who was in obvious distress and asking for water. My father gave him water and presently the fellow told how he had come to be so distressed. With an English accent, I’m told.

    The good traveler had set out on a day walk and gotten himself turned around and unable to find his way back to the trail head. My father understood how someone could get confused about location but was curious about the fellow’s thirst.

    Pap asked him, “Why are you thirsty? There’s water all over this country up here”.

    The fellow answered, “I know, but the first night out I lost my tin cup”!

    For want of my father a Limey might have died.

  28. Crudely Wrott says

    Hello, chigau. Wish I was still in the Wind Rivers. I could take you to a hillside of sandstone carved with hundreds HUNDREDS! of pictographs. Up in the Dinwoody drainage.

    Alas, the pictures of them that I took are lost. Still, if I was to turn onto a certain gravel road and drive a certain distance and climb up a certain draw that lets out onto a wide and even steep slope, I could show you. Short of that, there are maps . . .
    ;)

  29. rq says

    I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable in a desert for long periods of time, never mind alone and without a slew of safety features in place (proper maps, water, other people knowing, extra courage, etc.). I’m much more of a temperate forests kind of person – blame it on the upbringing (greater knowledge of = greater comfort).
    That being said, I’m all for Burning Squid, if that should happen. Provided the beer or gin&tonics or whatever else on offer doesn’t actually run out.

  30. unclefrogy says

    I had to travel to a bunch of far away parks at or just before rush hour this summer for work some were easy to find but not all. One particular park is back in aa older housing track with roads that did not meet up very well and the Google map print out directions got me very lost but I had studied the satellite image before and could see the power line right of way and the concreted in river bed (it was Los Angeles and were not on the map) and a freeway which helped me get where I was trying to get to and a little early.

    we tried using some cellphone map leaving one park at 11 at night and it was just about useless for even finding a freeway but a compass on the dash board is very useful
    If I’m going out in the desert or mountains and I don’t have all the extra(right) stuff I stay within sight of the major roads.
    I may be a fool but I ain’t that stupid I can get lost in town.
    it is so sad to hear of people who parish out in nature like that.
    most people are like those white mice you find in pet shops they are the same biologically as the mice you find in your pantry or out in a field but they do not know anything about the nature of where they are and are profoundly ignorant of most of the dangers in nature.

    uncle frogy

  31. lochaber says

    I’ve gotten all kinds of weird looks and deriding comments about not taking a GPS into the backcountry when I go backpacking.

    I figure GPS are really great for scientific studies and such, when you need to find/mark a specific location out in the middle of nowhere. but they are no substitute for basic orienteering/land nav skills.

    Plus, you’d be hard pressed to find a GPS that will weigh less then a basic compass and a local topo map, even if you ignore batteries.

    I’ve done my share of laughing at the folks who have driven into cliffs or into the ocean due to GPS instructions, but I can’t help but feel that getting lost in the desert is a slightly different matter.

    Even so, I think it’s appalling how few people have any idea how to use either a topo map or a decent compass (let alone both together).

    I guess it’s somewhat easier for me than most, since I pretty much grew up with topo maps…

    The desert is a pretty unforgiving landscape. Not malicious, just unforgiving.

  32. says

    Shortly after GPS became popular, I read of several people on various occasions getting killed because their systems directed them to, oh, make a turn onto a railroad track AND THEY DID IT. The moral was that people stopped thinking about what they were doing and just followed instructions. Keep a skeptical mind, people! Remember that your GPS was programmed by summer students and the maps were entered by data-entry clerks.

    Most of the glitches I notice are simply inaccuracies about where roads change names; however once the navigator directed my to turn from a road in a valley to the bridge 30 metres above (or vice versa). I made a mental note to tell the GPS people about that one but I never did.

  33. khms says

    I’ve done my share of laughing at the folks who have driven into cliffs or into the ocean due to GPS instructions, but I can’t help but feel that getting lost in the desert is a slightly different matter.

    Even so, I think it’s appalling how few people have any idea how to use either a topo map or a decent compass (let alone both together).

    I’d argue that people “who have driven into cliffs or into the ocean due to GPS instructions” fall under “few people have any idea how to use” a GPS.

    Even with the nicest GPS … trust, but verify! And how many can count as “nicest”?

  34. Q.E.D says

    markita

    Shortly after GPS became popular, I read of several people on various occasions getting killed because their systems directed them to, oh, make a turn onto a railroad track AND THEY DID IT. The moral was that people stopped thinking about what they were doing and just followed instructions. Keep a skeptical mind, people! Remember that your GPS was programmed by summer students and the maps were entered by data-entry clerks.

    my spouse refers to people relying on GPS Sat Nav systems as “outsourcing their brains”

    crudely Wrot @ 33

    You are so right. I learned to read a topo map in the Wind River mountain range in Wyoming many, many moons ago before GPS on mobile phones. One of the best things I have ever done. One of the few things I miss about the US are its wilderness and its beautiful National Parks.

  35. Crudely Wrott says

    Q.E.D.:

    I learned to read a topo map in the Wind River mountain range in Wyoming many, many moons ago . . .

    Ah! Our paths have crossed. Nice to know that.

    We should swap maps just to see. ;->

  36. Oenotrian says

    Crudely Wrott @35:

    My (very British) grandfather used to tell that same joke. Thanks for the fond memory.

    We started using GPS when we lived in Italy. Most of the streets are unnamed and it was sometimes the only way to find our way home. There were a few times when it insisted we turn right onto roads that no longer existed, but it was better than going without.

    Speaking of urban topographical errors. Even the current version of TomTom’s U.S. map tries to get you to turn right onto the tarmac when driving to SEATAC airport.

  37. c4k3 says

    Slight correction: Article says the couple is from the Netherlands, wouldn’t that make them Dutch instead of Danish?

  38. says

    Not only do you needs good paper map, you need to know how to read it. While hiking in Yosemite we ran across a pair of hikers that had a good map, but kept going the wrong way because they didn’t know how to use it.

  39. woodsong says

    I’ve never been in the desert-Upstate New York native!-but I’d love to explore sometime. With a good map, compass, lots of water, and preferably the company of a knowledgeable local! And, not in July or August. I’m prone to heat exhaustion.

    I have a GPS unit for the car (used twice in 3 years!), and my husband likes Google Maps and Mapquest. We also own road atlases for all of the states we vacation in, and make sure to have the one we need for a given trip with us. We also have 2 NY atlases, one of which permanently resides in the car. We’ll follow Google Maps directions from point A to B, with the road atlas as backup if things get confusing.

    The second NY atlas was the result of last year’s vacation trip (to Maine) at the end of August. We left Ithaca the day after Hurricane Irene roared through (sans NY atlas), to find a 2-hour delay when we reached the Schoharie River–all of the bridges were closed! We finally got through when the Rte. 7 bridge was reopened, had a week of fun and fine weather in Maine, then drive home into the teeth of Tropical Storm Lee! That was more of an adventure. Detour: bridge on Rte. 206 west of Bainbridge is closed. Detour from the detour: Rte. 79 north of Chenango Forks is buried in gravel. Detour from the second detour: The whole Castle Creek area is under water! At that point, we bought the road atlas and found our own route, sticking to the hilltops until we got to Whitney Point. From there, we didn’t have any further trouble, although if we’d been an hour or two later getting to Whitney Point we’d have found that bridge closed, too! While it was a nerve-wracking trip, we both knew that the worst that would happen (barring accident) was that we’d be sleeping in the car, with leftover granola bars for dinner. Not even close to a life-threatening situation. We were far more concerned and sympathetic for the folks that lived along the flooding rivers.

    We also have a compass, used mostly for hiking, that’s a little weird. It points south, consistently. Knowing that, we can adjust for the 180° error, but it was rather unsettling the first time we used it! Fortunately, we had a rough idea of which way was north on that occasion (somewhere in front, not behind!), and weren’t in a risky area for getting lost.

  40. fastlane says

    Chris Clarke@32:

    All you have to do to get a lifetime’s worth of stories is hike on either the Bright Angel or South Kaibab trails in the Grand Canyon. Any time I hike in the Canyon — and it’s been too long, almost four years now — I take three times the water I’m going to need, because I always find myself pouring it down the throats of people who are bright red.

    Yup, although Bright Angel isn’t so bad, since there are a couple of official places to get water along the way, and a couple of decently flowing streams most of the year if you’re willing to risk it, or have a proper way to sterilize the water.

    I carried 3 gallons with me down the South Kaibab trail, and wound giving away about 2 of those gallons. On the way up the Bright Angel 2 days later, it wasn’t so bad, but I did give out a few liters, and spent some time chastising a couple who didn’t bring water for them or their dog. I lectured them while I gave the dog water, then let them have some. I think that made the point pretty clearly.

    Loved that hike. I need to do it again, someday.

    And I used to do Search and Rescue with Civil Air Patrol on Tucson and Phoenix. We’ve plucked more than one group of hikers from the desert when they didn’t report back. Those were the lucky ones.

    Having said that, I really do appreciate using my GPS driving around the Seattle metro area. It saves a lot of time making and printing maps, and it has a feature that routes me around traffic jams and accidents that can be very handy, and a map simply couldn’t do.

  41. Sili says

    Lately that has been 1 or 2 people a year, dead in the mountains of the west coast after getting stuck in snow drifts.

    Some of these people disappear and haven’t yet been found. Others turn up when the snow melts in late spring.

    Pity. We really should leave some Ötzis for the future.

  42. Sili says

    GPSes have been the cause of an increased number of ghost drivers over here, because people blindly follow instructions and turn down the off-ramps to the motorway. The new gadgets have started doing detailed drawings of the intersections to help people do less stupid things.

    –o–

    Hottest I’ve seen it was one place in southern Utah where the last thermometer we saw said somthing like 116 degrees. A couple of us were from Scandinavia and their minds boggled and shut down. Apparently it never gets any where near that hot there.

    I usually stop functioning if we get much past 25.

  43. glendenb says

    It’s not just the heat – the elevation gets you too.

    I believe the entrance of Zions park is at 4000 feet above sea level. Angel’s landing is almost 6000 feet above sea level. I’ve been there in November when its 80 degrees and hiking is very sweaty work (it was weird to be hiking in the sun, baking, and step into a canyon with no sunlight and it was frigid). Visitors from lower elevations and more humid locales get dehydrated much faster than they realize. In the summer in the Southern Utah, you step outside and you can feel the air sucking the water out of your body. Someplace like Cedar Breaks which is 8000 feet above sea level and 100 degrees at noon can do a number on a visitor.

    The mountains disorient people – your car can be a mile from the scenic spot you want to visit but the actual trail ends up being three miles because it goes up a mountain, then around a gaping chasm in the earth and down another mountain. GPS – even a good GPS – can only do you so much good when you’re in the wilderness. This weekend, I was hiking and ran into a group of about 10 people from Maryland who were panting and gasping because of the thin air and they hadn’t started up the actual mountain yet.

    It’s not just visitors and inexperienced folks who get into trouble in the Western US wilderness areas.

    My parents are experienced hikers but last summer got lost in the Uinta mountains in Northern Utah. They live in the area and hike several times a week all summer so they know the area very well; nevertheless, they were on a little-used trail that disappeared into the trees. They were off the trail for a long time before they realized how lost they were. They were on top of a mountain so they figured it would be easy to find their way back. Wrong. They picked a landmark they knew (a mountain) and worked their toward it, till they saw the lake they knew; they hiked toward the lake till they found a trail. They were able to follow the trail to a sign that pointed them toward a campground they happened to know. From there, they took the trail back to the road and back to their car. Happy ending, but it took them nearly 10 hours. All this at 10,000 feet above sea level.

  44. cherrybombsim says

    I am really enjoying your posts, Chris.I am from the area and got to do my undergrad geology field work in my own back yard, sorta. If we want to do the Burning Squid thing, you will need to bring shovels and pina colada mix. I will explain when we get there.

  45. katansi says

    This is why I like paper topographic maps and am glad I can actually orienteer. Thank you Girl Scouts!

  46. lpetrich says

    Another underappreciated skill, I think, is celestial navigation, using the Sun and the Moon and the stars. You don’t have to be very fancy; it will give a rough idea of directions. It works best when the celestial objects you’re using are low in the sky, and it won’t work in cloudy skies, so celestial navigation is a bit limited.

    Using distant landmarks like mountains and tall buildings is also a good skill.

    As to U2’s Joshua Tree, U2 could have called that album “Like a Joshua Tree” or “Are You Joshua Treed?” or “Q: Are We Not U2? A: We Are The Joshua Tree!” or …

  47. says

    I grew up not far from where James Kim died, along the Rogue River.

    Literally none of the locals will take that road, except at the height of summer, and with offroad vehicles. I lived there and went from west to east many times – and we always took 199 save once.

    People get lost like that with all sorts of maps… It’s just that the authority of a voice telling you what to do plus a set of directions from a source – but it’s never gone through a sanity check of a living person. Anyone heading into the backcountry on their own does this, etherial device or not.

    I am annoyed constantly that Google navigation doesn’t think ahead to download the whole map of the route; it doesn’t tell you the rating of the roads you’re supposedly going on; and it doesn’t tell you the age of the data.

    I’ve seen more than once Google has fixed their maps only to see it be ‘upgraded’ to a newer source – that includes an old error that crops up again and again because who they’re buying their maps from never fixed it.