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552 Low Batteries 2012-01-06

low battery warning sign on the gps

One of the reasons we walk trails is to gather information for cloudhiking.com. (The other is we just like walking trails!) We have been info gathering for a couple of years now and are getting better at knowing what we need to complete a map and guide. We have also learned a few tricks which make the job easier. One important strategy is using the time stamps off the camera and GPS. We can take a picture in the field and then, when back at the home office, decipher where the picture was taken by using the GPS track. This technique is very important when mapping an unfamiliar trail.

To complicate things, though, the GPS's and camera's times are often different. The next thing you know, I am moving an overlook a few hundred feet to where it does not belong - just, because the times on the devices were not in synch.

A trick to improve our accuracy is to take a picture of the GPS screen sometime during the hike. We, then, have the current times on both devices and can match the times with the simple addition or subtraction of the differences.

On with the story ...

Early in the fall, we, my wife and I, went for the first time to Old Stone Fort State Park near Manchester, TN. While hiking the trails we found a labyrinth of paths, some social trails and some were the real things. We knew we would be relying heavily on our camera and GPS data to make sense of the mazes. Carefully, we took pictures of junctions, waypoints, and significant features.

Once home, I started downloading the GPS data to find that my wife's GPS had been off for much of the hike. Rats. We had separated a few times and mapped different sections of the trail - all that information was not gathered. Her pictures were also no longer important, because we had no way to georeference their positions.

I questioned her about the GPS being off. I told her about the low battery warning message and warning beep. She said she had looked at the GPS several times and honestly couldn't see a thing - due to the bright sun, her sunglasses, and the GPS case. She had not heard a beep.

She was new to using the GPS, as we had just recently bought our second GPS unit. I should have checked the batteries before leaving the trailhead; but I didn't.

So, I worked with my data alone; but had some puzzling sections of trail I needed to decipher.

I downloaded her pictures to see if she had better ones than mine of known locations.

Scanning through her downloaded images, there was her picture of the GPS, she took while syncing her time. The camera was able to read the GPS screen in the bright midday sun. A red boxed message was on the screen warning, "Batteries Low".

When I showed her the picture, she immediately responded, "I told you I couldn't see the screen!"

We both had a big laugh.

I returned to the Park a couple of weeks later to confirm a few puzzling sections of the trail; but our laugh on the "Batteries Low" was worth the extra trip.

Happy low battery trails.


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