Get Lost In Blue Ridge With A GPS

get lost using a gpsYour GPS can get you lost, or worse kill you!  I don’t think you will get killed like people in a recent news article I read, but up here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it can get you lost, hurt or stuck!

A GPS is almost the perfect gift for a guy, since we never stop and ask for directions.  Now all we have to do is just turn it on and never get lost, not!  Before we share some of our experiences with GPSs up here in the North Georgia mountains, we need to share a basic understanding about how a GPS works.

  1. Your GPS is a receiver, catching signals from satellites.
  2. Once your GPS gets a ‘lock’ on 3 satellites, it can tell you exactly where you are located (or very close anyway).
  3. With a lock on your location, your GPS pinpoints your location on the map it has stored in its unit.

Now that you know all of this you also need to know:

  1. Many times high mountains will prevent a GPS from getting a lock on 3 satellites, and
  2. Your unit’s map probably is no good for Blue Ridge and such a rural location.

Many times high mountains will prevent a GPS from getting a lock on 3 satellites

I have been in locations where I have been able to lock in on a lot of satellites and also where I have only been able to lock in on 1.  Once I drove over 40 miles in the National Forest, without successfully finding where I was on the GPS.  The logging roads are usually down low following a creek or river, so you have high mountains on both sides of the road.

I was fortunate because I knew where I was, and I also had a topographical map of the national forest with me.  Without the map, I probably would have needed to stop frequently and climb a mountain so that I could get a fix on my location.

Your unit’s map is no good for Blue Ridge and such a rural location.

Google Maps, Mapquest and GPS software do not invest a lot of time upgrading maps for rural locations.  The road my cabin is on does not exist on any map except for the map provided by the Fannin Chamber of Commerce.  In giving people driving directions to their cabin rental in the North Georgia Mountains,  I will usually have to tell them the name of the last road that will show up in their GPS and instruct them to follow the turn by turn directions from there.  Most people ignore this advice, I have been out at 2:00 AM looking for guests who were lost on back roads (they were easy to find, they were the only car on the road).

I have had guests call me and ask me:

  • should they keep driving past the signs that say 4WD only past this point (I still have not found where they were when they called me),
  • drive down abandoned logging roads that the GPS tells them will get them there,
  • get stuck in places they really shouldn’t be, or
  • follow the GPS to the wrong side of a mountain.  These are only the stories I heard about, so I bet there are plenty more people getting lost than admit it to me.
ATV Riding at Davenport Mountain OHV

ATV Riding

I have a GPS that we purchased for riding our ATVs.  It has a great feature which allows you to backtrack your travels so you can find your way back to your truck.  This has saved us plenty of times when we were having too much fun and not paying attention to where we were or how to get back.

This has caused some problems for us up here in the Blue Ridge Mountains several times because of all of the reasons I have listed above and one more:  The batteries die quick in hand held GPS units.

So what should you do? Should you rely on your GPS while up here in Blue Ridge, Georgia?  Are you going to get lost?  Here is what I suggest you do:

  • Let your GPS help you get to Blue Ridge, GA.  For the most part, it will help you map the quickest and most efficient route to get to Blue Ridge.
  • Check with us before you travel, if you are coming from Tennessee, North or South Carolina, your GPS may not bring you in the most efficient and quickest way.
  • When you get to town, stop by the Fannin County Welcome Center and purchase a county map.  They also sell topographical maps of the surrounding National Forest, so if you are planning to explore off of the paved road, pick up some maps.
  • Plan for emergencies.  Don’t expect a gas station or a convenience store on every corner, especially once you get a little ways outside of Blue Ridge.  Make sure you have some basic emergency items in your vehicle such as water, a spare tire with air, a first aid kit, and a cell phone (which may not work in many areas) and a full tank of gas.
  • Plan your activities – if possible, let people know where you are planning to go.  If you don’t return at the expected time, they will know where to start looking for you.
  • Common sense – just because your truck or suv has a little handle or button that says 4WD that doesn’t mean you should try to ford a stream, climb up the side of a mountain, go mudding or drive on the ice and snow.  If you do not have experience with these driving obstacles, and you are alone in the woods, think twice before attempting to do something.  AAA will come for you, but it might be a while, a long while.

Come stay with us in a mountain view, riverfront or secluded and private cabin.  Visit our website to review all of our Blue Ridge Cabin Rentals.  We hope to see you soon, but don’t depend entirely on that GPS.

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5 Responses to Get Lost In Blue Ridge With A GPS

  1. handheld gps says:

    I’m no longer certain where you are getting your info, but great topic. I must spend a while learning much more or figuring out more. Thanks for great information I was in search of this information for my mission.

  2. Tom Stone says:

    An added footnote – many people are now using their GPS and maps on their smart phones instead of a map or driving directions. These units triangulate your location based upon cell phone towers. If you loose your cell phone coverage, you lose your map.

    Yes, this happens a lot up here, mountains can block your cell phone coverage.

  3. It’s really a great and useful piece of information. I am happy that you just shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. Tom Stone says:

    Recent update: I have found a great use for a GPS in Blue Ridge, when people get lost and stuck on a logging road in the middle of the night from following their GPS, they can give you their coordinates so you can go find them!