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How to import gpx into Google Maps to make a GPS track viewer

| February 15, 2015 | 2 Comments


You probably carry a smartphone with you while hiking, but you may not realize that you can use its built-in GPS receiver to easily track where you went, the time you took, your speed, and your elevation changes.

Reviewing the data from your hike using free mapping software can be both fun and educational, and it only takes a few minutes to do it.

If you’re a serious hiker or trail runner you may have spent the money on a purpose-built hiking GPS or a GPS watch and have at some point tried loading track files into the accompanying software. If you haven’t thought about using the free offerings from Google, you’re in for a real treat.

In this article, I’ll show you how to use both Google Maps and Google Earth as a GPS track viewer, whether you’re using a smartphone or separate GPS device. Google Maps provides a two-dimensional map or satellite view  that we mostly use with city streets. Google Earth provides a more photographic three-dimensional view of the whole planet.

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How to increase creativity — go hiking

| February 6, 2015 | 0 Comments


Sometimes the best ideas come to us when we’re least expecting them.

A quick poll of my friends validated my own experience of getting the best ideas when in the shower, out walking, or lying half-asleep in bed in the morning. A Stanford University study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology backs up the idea that walking increases creative inspiration — and by an average of 60 percent! Even better, the creativity boost continues for a while afterwards.

Some ideas for how to increase creativity

It doesn’t seem to matter whether we’re walking indoors or outdoors, and we can even be on a treadmill staring at a blank wall. Now, that’s not a suggestion to exchange your wilderness hikes for a treadmill, but if you’re in need of creative inspiration and can’t wait until your next big hike, a walk around the block may help you to get the answer you’re looking for.

To boost creativity, you can also schedule walking meetings with colleagues at work. Getting out from behind a desk and taking a walk  brings a different vibe to the meeting. It’s more relaxed, informal, and really does get the creative juices flowing. It’s not for every meeting, but in my experience as a people manager it’s a good tool to have in your toolbox for when you’re coaching someone, kicking around ideas, or just need to work around an energy low.

The idea of holding walking meetings is not new and some well-known business leaders, such as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerman have been known to walk with colleagues. Nilofer Merchant suggests turning meetings into walking meetings in her TED talk.

You might also want to try a community walking group that aims to mix walking with idea sharing, such as the Hikestorming group in Silicon Valley.

Now, before you get the idea that walking is going to serve all of your creative thinking needs, the Stanford study finds that although it helps with the generation of ideas (divergent thinking), it doesn’t help with the focused (convergent) thinking that’s needed to solve a problem when there’s one right answer. So, don’t put your desk out on the curb just yet.

If you want the full details, you can read the Stanford University research report by Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz.

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Photo credits: Mark Beresford.

How to take map bearings for land navigation

| February 4, 2015 | 0 Comments

Photo: Mark Beresford

Photo: Mark Beresford

If you’re like many hikers, you’ve found that navigation with a compass is a perishable skill that’s often forgotten just when you need it most — when you think you might be lost. You may have tried to learn how to use a compass before, following the “easy” 1… 2… 3… step system, but somehow it just didn’t stick and the next time you pulled your compass out you couldn’t remember exactly what to do.

If you’re planning to stay on obvious, well-signposted trails, and you have a map, and lots of people are around, you probably don’t need a compass. But, your compass skills should be fluent before you think about going:

  • Off marked trails
  • Where the trails are hard to follow because of low use, snowfall, or long stretches of rock or sand that show no wear from foot traffic
  • Where the trails are poorly signposted
  • Where visibility could be reduced because of cloud or snowstorms

This is true even if you carry a GPS receiver, because a GPS doesn’t replace the need for a separate compass, even if it has a built-in electronic compass.

In this article, you’ll learn how to perform a common and basic navigation task — taking a map bearing. You’ll go beyond rote memorization of the steps and finally understand the principles involved. This means that you’ll be less likely to forget what to do when you’re in a tight spot and really need to get off the mountain before dark.

But first, a story to illustrate how powerful it can be to use a compass with confidence.

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Now you can have your own Reese Witherspoon WILD boots

| January 29, 2015 | 1 Comment

you can have your own wild boots

Courtesy of Danner

The movie WILD is compulsory viewing for hikers. The film, by Fox Searchlight Pictures, follows the true story of hiker Cheryl Strayed, played by Reese Witherspoon, as she solo-hikes along the 1100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. With absolutely no prior experience, her risky journey was her own way of recovering from personal tragedy and a low point in her life.

The red-laced Reese Witherspoon Wild boots are an icon of the 1990’s

The iconic red-laced Danner boots that Reese Witherspoon wears in the movie were typical of boots worn by hikers in 1995. To improve the movie’s authenticity, the film company asked Danner to custom-make a batch of replica boots for Witherspoon. However, Danner didn’t stop there and banking on the popularity of the film went into full production. The story of the WILD boot is told in the following video.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you can get a taste of it from the official trailer below, and now there’s nothing stopping you from wearing your own Danner Mountain Light Cascade boots while reading the book on which the movie was based at home.

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