Find Your Way Out of a Paper Bag: GPS Navigation

We had a skill-sharing Sunday with the canoe club today, and the skill we worked on was navigation.  Several club members have owned a GPS for awhile, and they’re a rather expensive item.  They’re not very easy to figure out on your own, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to search the internet for useful information, without too much luck.  One thing I realized was that after spending a lot to buy a fancy GPS, it still wasn’t very useful, because I had to buy and load expensive maps onto it, to actually see where I was.  Otherwise, I had a confusing selection of numbers, lines, or circles on the screen.  Also, to get from one screen to another, or to enter any information, you have to “toggle” a small switch from side to side, again and again.  I haven’t found the device to be at all user-friendly, but I appreciate being able to upload the information from my adventures onto my computer, and I was also able to share some files with other users, using .GPX files.

I initially purchased my Garmin when I was living in Viet Nam, since I was pretty active in the Hash House Harriers.  I have to warn you to avoid the HHH, a worldwide “drinking club with a running problem”, unless you really enjoy sexism, racism, drunkenness, and extremely vulgar language.  Hashers take pride in being offensive,  However, there was no other real choice in Ho Chi Minh City, if you wanted to be active outdoors.  I did have the opportunity to see some fantastic places and to meet some wonderful people through the Hash, so I don’t really regret my participation.  I’m just saying that you need to be warned, if someone suggests going on a Hash Run.

Back to the GPS: I’m still quite confused about a lot of the functions, but it’s more reliable for location, and for staying turned on, than a smartphone.  I did learn how to enter coordinates on my GPS, and then search for them, and it was pretty fun, searching for some geocaches that were hidden in Hawrelak Park, as well as some trees that Mark had marked (the name Mark and the word “mark” were very confusing at times!) for us to find.  He printed some very helpful advice for us, located at

While we were at the park, we also met some very well-known Edmontonians, Nick Lees, also known as “Nick Danger”, a journalist who was willing to try almost everything, for a story.  Nick has done triathlon, long-distance cycling, prize-figthing, you name it!  He was accompanied by John Yardley-Jones, a popular artist and cartoonist who settled in Edmonton, and who has also been very active in outdoor pursuits, holding the record for most completions of the Canadian Birkebeiner cross-country skiing race (55 kilometres long, with or without a 5.5 Kg pack).  They reminisced with Mark, a fellow sportsman.

My next step is to get a micro SD card to hold data in my GPS unit, and then to look for free or low-cost maps to store on my Garmin.  I’m hopeful that I’ll get a lot more use out of it, once it’s equipped with maps.  I’ll also try geocaching a bit more, in order to remember the skills I learned, and to have fun while doing it.  I can use the app on my phone, when I don’t want to carry a separate device with me.








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