I don’t do a lot of Volunteer work anymore because I’m pretty picky about who I work with if I tossing time around. About a month ago I received an email from the Hike Inn . They needed help with a map and really they wanted some more help to start a Geographic Information System of sorts to help with data maintenance. We talked – and they were working on a grant through a commercial GIS vendor and it was complicated. Too complicated. A colleague had stopped by there and went “Call Randy”.
I don’t worry so much with direction anymore either. If I’m driving somewhere like Savannah I know I at least need to get to Macon Georgia before making a decision on a turn. If I’m going to Amicolola Falls I need to head to Dahlonega Georgia and then look right after I pass Ellijay Georgia. Getting lost for me is therapeutic. I’m a direction generalist.
So when I walked up to the Visitors center at the lodge the conversation went something like:
Me: I need to go to Hike in.
Park: $5 and park at the top in the Hike Inn parking lot.
Me: How far is it? Like a mile?
Park: Oh it’s 5 miles…..
Me: LOL WHUT?
Anyway – I loaded up my backpack and laptop and off I went. I did it and I didn’t break any iron man speed record.
It’s a unique place. You’re 5 miles from Amicolola Falls and 5 miles from the start of the Appalachian Trail. You have Solar Panels. Compost Piles. Modest Rooms. No cell coverage either. It was weird. 20 years ago this experience was a life goal. It made me wonder that night why it had stopped being one. I fidgeted. I turned on my laptop. I tried in vain to hold my phone up for a signal of some sort. I was forced to talk to my fellow lodge inhabitants. I went to a slide show on Yosemite Park. I did a tour of the facilities. It was pretty awesome to be honest. I am not used to being unplugged from the world.
……and we started. When you have Satellite Internet time is of the essence – especially when storms are rolling in. I opted for the network installer for QGIS. To me it’s easier to maintain and given that they are 5 miles up the trail – I can’t be there all the time. So we discussed written directions and data while the software loaded. It’s nice – I like discussing data. I’d rather discuss that than why your new computer isn’t powerful enough to run other GIS software or why licensing is going to hang you up or why the Mac Users need more software. We started organizing the data they have and started listing out the data we don’t have. Out of all of this we want a new map to get to the Hike Inn. I also get to be a cartographer again.
The best part of all of this – The Hike Inn has a community of people of people who run it and maintain it. QGIS has a community of people who work with the software. It’s a natural fit.
So if you happen to find yourself 5 miles west of Springer Mountain, and you stumble upon a Inn….and you happen to step inside the main office you’ll find a file cabinet covered in stickers (upper right). You might find QGIS sitting there helping people maintain some data and advance some conservation issues and trail maintenance around the Inn.
Go out and Do some Good.