Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mt. LeConte Hike & Website

Last summer, June 2011, I climbed Mt. LeConte with my two brothers-in-law.  We were on our annual big family vacation, that year in Gatlinburg, TN.  It was something I had wanted to do for a while.  I love mountains (always have as long as I can remember) but I've never climbed very many of them.  So at some point, I decided this trip was the one to register this peak.

Mt. LeConte (~6600') is one of the highest peaks in Great Smoky Mtn. Natl. Park, and it is the tallest in eastern TN from immediate base to top.

We decided to go big - there are several trails one can take to get to the top, and we picked one of the longer routes.  One of the longer trails takes you past Rainbow Falls, which is the highest single drop waterfall in the park, and that sounded like a good spot to see.  The Rainbow Falls trail starts out at a small parking area and is about 7.5 miles long at ~10% grade, so it's no small walk in the park.

Hike up Mt. LeConte via Rainbow Falls Trail

We hit the trail at ~8:30 AM.  Rainbow Falls was a bit of a disappointment because there was very little water flowing over it, and it doesn't seem that you can get very close to it.  I'm sure it would be a whole lot nicer if there had been more water.  Near the top of Mt. LeConte there is a lodge, basically a set of very rustic cabins that you can stay in for an arm & a leg for a night (no electricity & no running water).  At ~$120/night, I guess you pay for the experience (and not the service!).  Maybe someday when I've got more money.  Once at the lodge, we ate our lunch & checked out the main general building, which has some old frontier days stuff around that's neat to look at.  But the lodge is not at the peak, so after a bit of rest & food, we headed on up the trail to get to the top.  Just before getting to the peak, there is a spectacular overlook facing to the South.  The peak itself is kind of unusual - there are no great views at this point, it is just a spot off the trail to the right where there is a huge pile of rocks.  I guess you're supposed to bring a small rock with you up the mountain and make it a bit taller.

But other than relaying that story, I also am writing this blog post because I've recently discovered, a website that is designed for hiking & other outdoor adventure.  EveryTrail lets you set up an account, fill out a profile, and then start loading up your trips.  Trips basically include a GPS path and a set of geotagged photos, as you can see in the map/slideshow above.  If you don't have a GPS track to upload, you can draw it on a map or just use photos, but obviously the GPS track is the way to go.  While on the hike up LeConte, I had my at the time brand new Droid2Global with me, so I used it to record the track & take pictures as we went.  I recorded the track using the MyTracks app by Google.  The track isn't bad, especially when you consider the amount of tree cover and the fact that the phone was in my pocket much of the time.  However, the track recorded is way too long, over 10 miles supposedly on a 7.5 mi trail.  It overestimates the distance traveled when it doesn't have good GPS signal and the calculated location is not known really precisely.  EveryTrail requires that you upload a "GPS file", which of course is not a specific real thing; I assume it can read most any type of file recorded by the various GPSr makers.  I saved MyTracks data on my phone as a .GPX file format, emailed it to myself, & it loaded up very easily on my home PC.  EveryTrail also offers mobile apps for Android & iPhone, but I've not used it much yet.  I had previously already loaded up the pictures I had taken into a PicasaWeb photo album.  That was fortuitous, because EveryTrail allows you to use your Google login to access your PicasaWeb folders, so importing my photos into the trip was super easy.  It will also allow you to use Flickr or YouTube or direct uploads.  One issue, however, was that when EveryTrail puts together a slideshow of your photos, it determines the order of the photos based on the timestamp.  Since some of my photos I took on the way down, that didn't produce a good slideshow.  There is no easy, obvious way to edit the order of photos in EveryTrail, but the workaround is to open up your photos on the website after you've imported them and change the timestamp to force them into the order that you want.  Supposedly you can add video files too, but it didn't seem to recognize mine as anything other than still shots, so I baleeted them from the final trip. Overall, I think it's a decent site and I'll probably continue to use it to record hiking trips.

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