Weekend Wonders with Gaia GPS
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You'd be surprised how easy it was! The outdoors layer made short work of that criteria set. It's a basic, yet useful, topo map against which the blue of water quickly stands out. Navigation is a breeze with larger forest roads and even hiking trails drawn on too (and if you need more detail, overlay or switch to an aerial view or a 7.5" map).
Soon I found my destination--which will remain my secret, mapped my hike in, and had my weekend planned. After downloading the GPX data then uploading it back to Garmin to sync with my Inreach and Fenix for backup, I was ready to go. With planning done, maps downloaded, and backpack packed, this trip couldn't have been easier to arrange.
From start to finish it was an amazing outing to the woods. My route was easy to follow--admittedly helped by the fact that I just had to follow a drainage for several miles. Along the way I went from high desert pine forest to grassy meadows ringed with hardwoods to a bubbling stream flowing into a wider grassy valley. There were trees rubbed by elk and a group of mule deer. It was a setting reminiscent of frontier settlers.
The payoff was when I finally got to the "water" that made me pick that destination in the first place. On the map, it looked like a small-ish pond; confirmed by my inability to see it even though my course showed me practically swimming in it. Then I rounded the finger of a ridge and suddenly the small stream dove into a several acre pond tucked away in the mountains with water like Lake Tahoe.
Man am I glad I did! Turns out THAT was the real payoff. The pond itself was amazing enough, with water surrounding pine trees in shallows that reached into the grassy valley; but as I rounded the banks I spotted a cow elk grazing through the treeline. She smelled me pretty quickly and slinked away leaving me to walk back to camp in awe. While dinner rehydrated I thought how silly I was not to have taken my DSLR on that walk and decided to take the short walk back with my camera and dinner to enjoy a meal with a view.
While spooning out my first bite I realized the elk was back! I quickly set up my tripod and snapped shots between bites of spaghetti. Several minutes into our shared dinner the cow took a few curious looks over her shoulder back into the woods. At first I thought hiker or coyote or maybe even mountain lion, but she was more intrigued than concerned and went back to eating so I did the same. Before long she was joined by the rest of her dinner party and I had the dinner scene of a lifetime watching six elk (including several bulls in velvet) graze lazily in the closest life has ever gotten to a Bob Ross painting. After an hour of our dinner together we went our separate ways to bedtime.
After a night of chilly sleep I awoke for coffee and oatmeal, made with cool (filtered!) mountain water and made my hike out with a warm stomach and enough memories to get me through at least another week of life in the city.
Find your own adventure with a discounted Gaia GPS subscription. While GTFO is supported by an affiliate agreement with GPS, that doesn't affect my enthusiasm for the product--I'm only an affiliate because I already used the product.