Where Is Where?

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"Where?" This is a question all backpackers ask. Where should I go backpacking in California? Where should I camp in Yosemite? Where did you take that sunset photo?

This week at the Where 2.0 Conference in Burlingame, CA, I'm surrounded by people who love to solve the question of "where." That's exciting for two reasons: 1) nobody gets lost in the mega-Marriott where the conference is held, and 2) experts come from all corners of the globe to share their geeky knowledge, location ideas, latitude/longitude philosophies, and new map sites.

I'm here to research and learn where the trends are going and what tools will benefit outdoor enthusiasts. Here's a few highlights from today:



Google Map Searches
: Go to google.com/maps. Type in "Pacific Crest Trail" into the search box. In a blink of an eye, you have a handful of photos from the PCT. Google is now aggregating geo-content into their search results on Google Maps and Google Earth. This is huge for researching locations for places to hike, bike, paddle, and climb. Even better: You can narrow your search results by clicking the "show search options" link. Select "mapped web pages" and you'll see Backpacker's own PCT Project listed. You can also view from the 9 million My Maps created by Google users. Tip: The search is constrained by your map extents, so zoom in or out on the map to adjust your searches.

Gigapan Photos: This isn't new, but check this beautiful panoramic image of Vernal Falls in Yosemite. Gigapan is listed as a layer in Google Earth, and their images add yet another perspective to the 3-D imagery.

GPS Mission: Geocaching is so 2006. This mobile phone application links together caches to create a real-world game. Geeky or not, any new software that gets people outside gets my thumbs up.

Data Basin: The days of scientists not being able to share their field data with the public or vice versa are gone (I hope). These developers have created a map-centric, non-technical interface for researchers to share, collaborate, and build on independent projects. So almost anyone could look at three separate studies and mash them together to see how, say, global warming affects endangered species in redwood habitats. Big bonus: This site allows users to import ArcGIS files, one of the most common file sources used by scientists and federal agencies like the Forest Service and National Park Service.

Watch for more reports later this week.

— Kris Wagner, Map Editor