Whew! What a weekend. Saturday, I helped a son move, then hosted a birthday party for a grandchild, then went to visit my Mother over at her house. Luckily, all of those things occurred in the same string of towns I call home.
Sunday, I overslept for church (Boo on me) then did a little carpentry, went out to tour the deer lease, then came home to find I was hosting a dinner party. Milady felt like cooking and had invited the kids to help eat it all.
So, life intruded on blogging, which is how it is supposed to be. This is a hobby, after all.
I purchased a GPS reciever this weekend, a Magellan eXplorist 100. It is a basic entry-level receiver and cost about $100.00 at Wal-Mart. I last used GPS units during my stint in the Guard at the turn of the century. They were bulky units and fairly complicated. This little Magellan is small, simple, rugged. The controls are intuitive for folks who operate computers. The old Army units gave position resolution down to 10 meters, which is close enough for infantry operations. This one is advertised to give position resolution down to 3 meters, which is excellent. It is also lightweight, and fits in your shirt pocket.
I sincerely hope the Army has since upgraded their GPS recievers.
I gave the Magellan a good test drive this weekend. GPS devices are small recievers which track signals from positioning satellites and perform math to triangulate position on the ground. I was surprised that I could set it from my kitchen table, tracking three satellites almost immediately after I turned it on. Upon taking it outside, I began tracking eight satellites almost immediately. The more satellites you track, the more accurately you can plot your position.
You can't turn it on when you are running down the road. It has to be still for a moment to locate itself with the signal from the satellites above. Then, it accurately supplies trip infomation, including direction of travel and speed. The speed reporting is surprisingly accurate, within a mile-per-hour or two of the speedometer on my pickup truck. Waypoints are easily set at the touch of a button and it will provide directions if you want to backtrack, or it will provide straight line bearing and distance to any waypoint you earlier set.
At the deer lease, it initially had a little trouble locating itself, but sorted itself out within a few minutes. As we toured the property, I made waypoints by tapping the button and jotted the locations down on a piece of paper. Were I alone, I would have taken time to notate the locations with the editing screen and I easily accomplished that when I got home and matched up coordinates to my notes.
One piece of north Louisiana piney woods looks pretty much like any other, and one section of gravel road is similarly similar. When I got home, I started inputting coordinates into Google Earth and soon saw where I had been. The overview of satellite photography with my recent trip helped make sense of the tour I had t taken and looking at the map helped cement the various locations in my mind. I saved the map to the hard drive of the computer and I can call it up and print it if necessary. It is interesting to note that my deer stand is located at a distance of 21.8 miles from my kitchen table, on a bearing of 006 degrees. It's not very useful information, but it is interesting.
I can see that this device will be eminently useful in land navigation, and much easier to carry and use than the GPS devices I have earlier used. More expensive units combine mapping ability internally with the ability to download information directly into the computer.
This device, like all other devices will never take the place of a good map and compass. Land navigation is a demanding discipline and the responsibility of knowing your location should never be taken lightly. I'm sure that the batteries will go out when you least expect it and the clouds will overcome the horizon. Haze and darkness will render the most advanced of us dependent on the same tools used for centuries to cross unfamiliar terrain. The map, compass and Ranger beads are indespensible.
However, for trekking around a deer lease, this little device is quite useful.