Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Using Compass and GPS While Hiking

My wife and I hiked up West Tiger Mountain #2 and #3 today. #2 is an elevation of approximately 2700 feet. The most popular route is to take the West Tiger 3 Trail (WT3T) up to peak #3. But, we decided to do a loop, following the Tiger Mountain Trail (TMT) up to peak #2, over to peak #3 and then following the West Tiger 3 Trail to get back to the trailhead. Here is a nice map of the trails around where we hiked. Purple is the TMT; green is the WT3T. I printed out a guide with latitude/longitude and brief descriptions of intersection points and we drove to the Tradition Lake/Plateau Trailhead

The reason I'm telling you about this on a mobile blog is that the Compass app was extremely handy for the hike. I used it for (1) latitude/longitude to match with the guide, (2) compass to make sure we were headed in the correct direction, and (3) elevation to know how far up or down we still had to go. I'll definitely make sure my phone is fully charged for my next hike.

Another reason I'm glad I had the Compass app is that our planned hike was interrupted. Half-way up the mountain, we saw a sign telling us the TMT was closed ahead. It told us to use the K-3 trail (purple dashed line on the map) to access the peaks. The Compass helped me figure out where we were on the map I printed and how close we were to the planned trail. The K-3 turned out to be a great alternative as it took us up to the old Railroad Grade (black dashed line) which reconnected with the TMT. Fortunately for us, the trail signage was quite good, providing trail names, directions to peaks and even distances, occasionally.

I can see why most people stick to WT3T. The TMT was somewhat narrow, steep and overgrown, but it wound through some gorgeous parts of the park, including across two ravines via wooden bridges with streams below. We were pleasantly surprised to find many foxglove plants which we learned about in our daughter's Fancy Nancy books. In contrast, the WT3T has wide, well-defined trail and is never particularly steep. They even had stairs built for the one steep portion. In contrast, the TMT had a number of steep sections with switchbacks built to make it easier to climb. There were a few parts where it took leg strength to pull myself up. We never saw anything like that on the WT3T. We didn't see a single other hiker on TMT; we saw 20+ other hikers on WT3T. Of course, we started the TMT at 8:20am and started hiking down the WT3T around 11:30am. Overall, I like the TMT better as it seemed like an interesting hike versus the WT3T which was more like an exercise walk.