I am always astounded and often impressed with the results of modern technology. GPS technology is one of the newest and potentially most useful transformative products in the outdoors. I scrimped for a month and bought a great GPS, the Garmin 130 with enough bells and whistles to keep me occupied for a month just playing with it. Then it was time to take it to the woods.
What I found was the usefulness as well as the burden of the technology. The GPS unit allowed me to come out more or less exactly where I wanted to on the road or at the pickup point. In the past I often came out within a couple hundred yards when I was exploring new country. GPS technology did give me a little extra courage to press on when my instincts were telling me it was time to turn around and head back to the trail. Because I knew that there wouldn’t be any directional mishaps I could spend the extra time hunting instead of confirming that this was the ridge I was supposed to be on by backtracking or turning back to well known county.
Two years ago I left my GPS in the unlocked truck after using it for work laying out some biological survey points. The unit was stolen. At first I was outraged and violated, but it was clearly a crime of opportunity and my bad for letting the door get left unlocked. Then, in the woods without my GPS, I began to notice some free time. It was the time I used to spend checking how far I had gone or where my partners were. It isn’t that I don’t want to replace this valuable tool. I definitely do. The trick with technology is to make sure that we use it instead of being used by it. Like the internet and other valuable tools, technology threatens to become a crutch if it is used instead of good ol’ brainpower.
Once in a while a GPS can really save the day or even your life if you’re alone in BIG country. The trick is to use it to hone and teach woodsmanship instead of to replace woodscraft.