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Thread: 'Death by GPS' in desert

  1. #1
    Web Wheeler
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    'Death by GPS' in desert

    A tragic story but a good cautionary article: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/01/30/336...in-desert.html

    Five harrowing days after becoming stuck on a remote backcountry road in Death Valley National Park in August 2009, Alicia Sanchez lay down next to her Jeep Cherokee and prepared to die.

    Then she heard a voice.

    "I called as I approached, asking if she was okay," wrote Ranger Amber Nattrass in a park report. "She was waving frantically and screaming, 'My baby is dead, my baby is dead.' "

    In the SUV, Nattrass found Sanchez's lifeless 6-year-old son Carlos on the front seat. "She told me they walked 10 miles but couldn't find any help (and) … had run out of water and had been drinking their own urine," Nattrass wrote.

    "She turned down a wrong road," Nattrass said in a recent interview. "She said she was following her GPS unit."
    I've almost fallen victim to letting my GPS kill me. Never set you GPSr to "shortest route" when driving cross country and trying to take a scenic route while relying on it to make course corrections to get you home quickly and safely. It may decide the best way for you to get from Casper WY to I-80 is to send you down a winding, narrow unmarked road that turns to dirt and then climbs over a 7500' mountain pass in the rain at 12:30 at night.
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  2. #2
    Web Wheeler
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    The GPS is good if you know about where you are going. If I'm in Cold Springs and tell it to take me to downtown Reno, it says to go North on 395 ! The directions go via Susanville and then back to Reno. Some kind of glitch in the programing. Most other areas it seems to work just fine.
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  3. #3
    Web Wheeler
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    And always make sure your "maps" are up to date for cross country driving. Hey bitosin don't you know how to get from cold springs to downtown reno yet without gps? lol

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    Based on her length of survival (not long) I doubt she was prepared for any desert driving, nevermind off-highway. Not enough water, no communication, noone knew where she was going and when she'd be back.

    If I was gone out of communication that long my friends and family would be mobilizing the national guard !

    I blame all gramatical errors on Apple and the iPhone.
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  5. #5
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    A MAP! Its right every time.
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  6. #6
    I support Reno4x4!
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    Last week we went camping in the National Forest just past Stampede (unmarked campsite, no fees, yay!) My buddy found the spot and gave me directions. I checked his directions on Google Maps to get a time frame for the drive, and the Google Map directed me to take the Verdi exit and use Henness Pass Road up the Dog Valley trail. I know DV like the back of my hand, but I had never really thought to use it as a shortcut to Stampede...

    Even Google Maps will screw you if you aren't paying attention...
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  7. #7
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    Henness Pass Road through Dog Valley is a pretty legitimate route to get to the back of Stampede. Faster than the highway, and I'll take a dirt road over traffic any day!
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  8. #8
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    I actually found an older couple with an airstream lost up there. they said their phone map app said it was a good way to go to get to I-80 from stampede in the "shortest" route. It is. Just not the best way for a low riding car towing an airstream trailer.

  9. #9
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    Yeah and thats where common sense should kick in, if your in a car and the gps is taking you off roading, you might want to check before you get to deep in the wilderness unless you know you have enough fuel and good vehicle to get through some sticky situations.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bth086 View Post
    Yeah and thats where common sense should kick in, if your in a car and the gps is taking you off roading, you might want to check before you get to deep in the wilderness unless you know you have enough fuel and good vehicle to get through some sticky situations.
    Many times I've been on a "good" dirt road that deteriorated into a dirt trail, then to a two track and worse. I can see starting out on what seems like easily driveable and then having it get worse as you get deeper and further from the good road.
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  11. #11
    I support Reno4x4!
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    But the key words here are COMMON SENSE...something a lot of people don't have...especially old people that think travel is exciting.
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    Hey Gary, watch it!!. You be talking about .....well, us. I am officially a Senior Citizen and think traveling (especially by dirt) is exciting. I am guessing WE are exceptions to the rule.

    I just got back from a week of traveling about 300 miles of Montana's "Back Country Byways". My Garmin Nuvi was in full agreement with my Benchmark MAP and the Montana Scenic Drives book. I guess that is in agreement with the thread though, I never depend totally on the Garmin, I study the MAPs before I go into unknown territory, but that is half the fun.
    efstop22 aka Craig
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    Quote Originally Posted by efstop22 View Post
    I never depend totally on the Garmin, I study the MAPs before I go into unknown territory, but that is half the fun.
    Real fun is without the GPS and just a good map and compass. MANY people have no clue how to use that any more.

    The other thing that surprises me, is how many can't find the north star.

    The old skills of life are slowly going away.
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    Agreed, the way I see it the maps are the truest form and a good way to get familiar with the target area, the GPS is just varification as one goes along. There have been times when I actually turned it off (or reset) because I knew it was....confused. I also now use Google Earth to "over-fly" an intended route just to see if the area is passible, usually is pretty accurate.

    On my Montana excursion the Scenic Drives book gave warnings about passability in a few areas, with a Google fly-over I could see ranches and other facilities, the roads were easily passible by Nevada standards.
    efstop22 aka Craig
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by efstop22 View Post
    Agreed, the way I see it the maps are the truest form and a good way to get familiar with the target area, the GPS is just varification as one goes along. There have been times when I actually turned it off (or reset) because I knew it was....confused. I also now use Google Earth to "over-fly" an intended route just to see if the area is passible, usually is pretty accurate.

    On my Montana excursion the Scenic Drives book gave warnings about passability in a few areas, with a Google fly-over I could see ranches and other facilities, the roads were easily passible by Nevada standards.
    The tools we have available to us are outstanding. I think people get into real life treating trouble is trying to use a single box to do it all.
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  16. #16
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    On my GPS I can choose "Limit Off-Highway" or "No Off-Highway". That might prevent unplanned excursions into the out back.
    "I don't believe in taking foolish chances, but nothing can be accomplished without taking any chance at all". Charles Lindbergh

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    Manual land-nav... easy peasy. I've found it's easier with a map and compass in terrain like the Fallon area, than in the woods. Woods ends up being dead reckoning much of the time due to not being able to see any discernable terrain features you can remain oriented towards.

    For me, I use my Garmin 296C. It has 1:25000 topo maps loaded into it, so I use it as my reference and look at the routes that I am thinking about taking, regardless of where I am at. provides a good enroute navigation as well as knowing what terrain is nearby, theoretical water sources, etc.

    I've also been on known trails that were on the map, and petered from fullsize capable to quad capable to foot capable.. 200 miles off the paved road, in terrain and woods that would have required elemdorf PJ's to come with a blackhawk and hoist to even insert SAR assets for any assistance. That was alaska though.

  18. #18
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    Sorry about the tragic ending, but you just can't fix stupid. I can understand getting lost if your on foot in a deep wilderness, but in a car? Does that model not have the ability to turn around? Sad to say but I bet if you research the story she porbably sued the crap out of the gps company. I know it said she got stuck, but I am one for people using common sense. There were several points she could have turned around, but she just kept going. Tragic but definitely avoidable.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by AMPD View Post
    Sorry about the tragic ending, but you just can't fix stupid. I can understand getting lost if your on foot in a deep wilderness, but in a car? Does that model not have the ability to turn around? Sad to say but I bet if you research the story she porbably sued the crap out of the gps company. I know it said she got stuck, but I am one for people using common sense. There were several points she could have turned around, but she just kept going. Tragic but definitely avoidable.
    I agree totally. To blindly go where a machine tells you to is for lack another word, is stupid. You cannot just go buy a GPS and expect it to be 100% every time, they need updating, that's why they are updatable.

  20. #20
    I support Reno4x4!
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    Hey Craig I am not talking about us I am talking about these really old farts that shouldn't even be on paved street
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZIPGRAVER View Post
    Hey Craig I am not talking about us I am talking about these really old farts that shouldn't even be on paved street
    very true, and even women. kidding or am I.

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