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  1. #1
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    Trails onto gps (Garmin eTrex Vista HCx)

    Hey everyone,

    Just picked up a Garmin eTrex Vista HCx gps yesterday. I got pretty turned around a couple weeks ago in Kisatchie National Forest (Louisiana), to the point where I was getting nervous about making it out before dark. So I figured a gps could help me out with this.

    So this particular model has a base map with pretty basic stuff, major highways and waterways, but what I'd really like to do is get the trail routes from a computer to the gps so I can see where I am on the trail (or in relation to it, seen as though I've lost the trails a couple times). Garmin offers preloaded microSD cards with topographical maps that supposedly contain some trail info, but these are quite pricey and I'm not sure they would have all the trails I will be riding. The gps came with MapSource Trip and Waypoint Manager software, so if I buy just a blank microSD card for extra memory is there a way to get trail routes just from a picture on the computer to the gps? Or would my best bet be just manually entering waypoints about where the trail should be and using that for general reference? If worst comes to worst the gps has a trackback feature so I could definitely use it to get home but I'd rather know where I am and finish a loop if possible.

    Any help would be appreciated! Thanks.

    ...........posted this earlier today in beginner's corner not seeing the gps forum. One guy was good enough to send me over here, and also suggested using Garmin's MotionBased to get trail gps info, which I think should come in handy. I also tried to manually drawing a trail route with the Mapsource software by looking at a trail map and using Google Earth for the initial starting gps coordinates, but I'm not sure how accurate this will turn out. Like the responder to my initial post pointed out I'm a real newb, so anything to help would be great. Thanks again.

  2. #2
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    Don't count on any maps to show you the correct trails. Some really old ones might be on there, but the vast majority won't. Maps will simply show you your surroundings and may help with navigation (I still prefer paper topos for navigation). You will need to download trails from other sites. Motionbased has a lot, but is an unreliable service. There are many others, too.

    You can get freely available maps for your GPS online. I don't use them, so you'll have to have someone else give you links to the sites that carry them. From what I've heard, depending on location, quality can be a little unreliable as far as what details are contained. Check the maps over before using. You will need an extra memory card for maps....even if just a blank one. I have 1GB in my 76CSx that holds a LOT, but many folks use 2GB cards, too.

    As for entering coordinates/tracing a trail, entering coords for occasional waypoints is fine, but time consuming. Downloading points/tracks is better. Don't try to trace a trail from a paper map unless you have actual coordinates, because you WILL be off. Most of those maps only show the trail 'close' to where it is, so even if you know what you're doing, you'll be off. On the off chance you have one that shows the exact location of the trail, you need to be skilled with GIS (geographic information systems) to trace the trail into its own file to send to the GPS.

  3. #3
    Scott in Tucson
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    I agree with NateHawk -- it's best if you can find actual GPS data from someone who has already ridden the trail. Upload that baby onto your GPS (working around a few issues, like simplifying/splitting the track to get it to fit) and you're good to go.

    However, I have had very good luck using TopoFusion to trace out routes and upload them to my GPS. I use both topo maps and aerials (multiple sources if possible) to verify a road or trail's location, trace it out and upload. It's pretty amazing how accurate this can be, depending on the area.
    Author of TopoFusion GPS Software. MTB+backpacking = bikepacking.net. Ride Diary.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Krein
    I agree with NateHawk -- it's best if you can find actual GPS data from someone who has already ridden the trail. Upload that baby onto your GPS (working around a few issues, like simplifying/splitting the track to get it to fit) and you're good to go.

    However, I have had very good luck using TopoFusion to trace out routes and upload them to my GPS. I use both topo maps and aerials (multiple sources if possible) to verify a road or trail's location, trace it out and upload. It's pretty amazing how accurate this can be, depending on the area.
    When tracing, you need something to go off of....in arid climates, trails sometimes show up really bright on aerials when they go through open country. In wetter, more heavily forested climates, entire ROADS can be obscured. Usually you'll get a good view of a trail for awhile, and then it'll disappear from the aerial altogether as it hits a forest, or it'll go into a clearing and it'll split to several routes and can be hard to find where they rejoin sometimes. If a trail uses a forest road for some distance, it can be VERY hard to find where it leaves the road. Harder than finding where it leaves said road when you're on the ground.

  5. #5
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    Krein-I checked out the TopoFusion website. The software looks great! Nice job! I hope you're getting a lot of hits. I do agree with NateHawk though and with you in that it depends on the area. Aerials of a trail won't do much good in Louisiana. I've tried using Google Earth to locate a trail head along with a trail map to plot the trail, but I don't think I can enter gps coordinates into the gps or Mapsource software as accurately as I need to in order to have the track on the gps where the trail actually is.

    That being said, I'm going to check out the free gps data links on the TopoFusion website. Thanks a lot to both of you. Any other sites ya'll think I should check out, specifically for trails in LA, TX, and AR?

  6. #6
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    Tyler State Park is about the only I can recommend in TX for the out-of-stater. I hear there's good trail in Ruston, LA, but haven't ridden it. I'm in E TX, so my local trails don't include any of the good stuff around Austin or anywhere else. What we have here is limited.

  7. #7
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    www.everytrail.com seems to have a decent selection of trails.

  8. #8
    Master of Sparks
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    Kisatchie is a great place to get lost. Google earth has a way point or whatever that somebody posted w/ a big hairy man encounter ! HA! I would love to see one of those dudes!

    Seriously. The Shreveport area has some great trails. The Monkey trail @ Eddie Jones Park. Bodcau. Bisteneau St. Park., Caney Lakes, And Lincoln Parish Park...or Ruston if you will. I have not found any gps data for these trails but I bet they will be up soon.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk
    When tracing, you need something to go off of....in arid climates, trails sometimes show up really bright on aerials when they go through open country. In wetter, more heavily forested climates, entire ROADS can be obscured.
    Good point that I missed in thinking about this. I have lived my entire life in the arid West (CA), and when we do have tree cover, its conifers, and trails are still very visible in aerial photos. Krein is in AZ and I have seen him post rides from all over the West, but again, trails are visible in aerial photos. I trace trails all the time to explore, but very minimal if any tree cover here (scattered solitary oaks).
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  10. #10
    Scott in Tucson
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    Quote Originally Posted by slocaus
    Good point that I missed in thinking about this. I have lived my entire life in the arid West (CA), and when we do have tree cover, its conifers, and trails are still very visible in aerial photos. Krein is in AZ and I have seen him post rides from all over the West, but again, trails are visible in aerial photos. I trace trails all the time to explore, but very minimal if any tree cover here (scattered solitary oaks).
    Yep, it definitely depends on the area. TF has worked all over the west, as you point out, but yeah, it's still more arid than other places.

    For my Oregon bikepacking trip (~400 miles), for example, I had to rely on GPS tracks from other riders, educated guesses (a few known points is better than nothing) as well as standard tracking. Even there you can often see the cut of a road and use that for a bearing. Or, a trail becomes visible through a clearcut area or meadow.

    Tis fun stuff, in any case.
    Author of TopoFusion GPS Software. MTB+backpacking = bikepacking.net. Ride Diary.

  11. #11
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    I archive all my trail rides as .gpx track logs from the gps, and build new (future) rides in either Google Earth (.kml files) or National Geographic Topo! (.tpo files). I typically use Topo! to assemble all the track logs into a single trail (ie. part from previous ride, part from Google Earth, part from topo map). I'll then convert the final .tpo file back to .gpx using GPSBabel software. The software that came with the HCX (Garmin Mapsource) can then send the modified / edited .gpx track log to the unit.

    Here's what I do in flowchart form:

    Previous rides = GPX file
    Google Earth, hand draw maps = KML file
    Topo! software to hand-draw = TPO file

    >> Convert all to TPO >> Edit in Topo! >> Save as TOP >> Convert to GPX >> Send to GPS.

    It's rather clunky, but it works really well for me!

  12. #12
    GPS_dr
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    • Upload GPX file of my ride to Google Earth
    • Trace over to reduce points to 250 (should be safe with 500)
    • Save as KML
    • Convert with GPSbabel to .gpx
    • Reload onto GPS when needed

    You can display up to 20 tracks on the Garmin,
    Covers more than many people need.
    2,000+ miles free Colorado FrontRange GPS enabled bike trails w/map overlays.
    View network via GoogleEarth @ GeoBiking.org

  13. #13
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    anyone else used ozi explorer? create tracks from pdf

  14. #14
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    If anyone here's thinking of purchasing T.F. better hold off. Have recently purchased via Geoman (he's been great in cont. contact stating its unusual for the people of Topfusion not fulfilling their orders) still waiting for the download link from them. Been just a couple of days now but only contacts been w/ Geo. Just an FYI.
    Next wks a new wk. Will wait some more.
    Don't want to bring any ill to the peeps (Geo. or TF) but jeez come on. Have purchased games (downloads) & received links in less than 2hrs time.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by robm6107
    If anyone here's thinking of purchasing T.F. better hold off. Have recently purchased via Geoman (he's been great in cont. contact stating its unusual for the people of Topfusion not fulfilling their orders) still waiting for the download link from them. Been just a couple of days now but only contacts been w/ Geo. Just an FYI.
    Next wks a new wk. Will wait some more.
    Don't want to bring any ill to the peeps (Geo. or TF) but jeez come on. Have purchased games (downloads) & received links in less than 2hrs time.
    Has this issue with TF been resolved? I'm using the demo software and think it's purdy cool... not sure if I'm going to buy it though.
    I read that on the internet.

  16. #16
    Scott in Tucson
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    Quote Originally Posted by 40hills
    Has this issue with TF been resolved? I'm using the demo software and think it's purdy cool... not sure if I'm going to buy it though.
    Yes. Normal purchases (through topofusion.com) are always automated and usually get people set up within minutes. Through Geoman there's an extra step on his end, and unfortunately a problem arose there. At the time I was riding my bike across Colorado (see http://www.topofusion.com/diary/2009/08/14/colorado-trail-race-2009/) without computer access for a ~week. Thus the lack of response on my end. Hopefully fellow mountain bikers can understand....

    As soon as I got back on a computer I got Robert his software. Many apologies (again) for the delay, Robert!
    Author of TopoFusion GPS Software. MTB+backpacking = bikepacking.net. Ride Diary.

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