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Paper, Or Paperless Benchmark Hunting Techniques


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I see some talk here on the benchmark hunting forum on the paperless vs. paper topic but it's rather scattered (I searched). So, here's a new place for it.

 

There are several aspects:

 

The software. There are different features, purposes, and capabilities.

 

The hardware. Handhelds, PC-laptop, etc.

 

The purposes. Logging finds, maps, datasheets.

 

The logistics. Figuring out which PIDs to actually look for, route planning.

 

I must admit that I don't do paperless and haven't even tried it. I may be missing something. Maybe I'm missing opportunities to 'work on the fly', or maybe I'm spending too much effort in choosing which PIDs to actually look for, and maybe if I was paperless I'd look for more. So, I want to know about paperless.

 

The aspect I really don't understand is the paperless logging of finds, and I've seen this mentioned several times. When I hunt, I bring a stapled stack of paper datasheets, either GC.com or NGS versions. I write my results on the papers for each PID. When I get home, I enter the data to GC.com. Where does paperless logging fit in?

 

One thing I worry about - softwares that suck in datasheet data, but without the verbal to-reach descriptions. I don't know whether any softwares do that, but I'm sure that anyone relying on that type of scenario won't find many benchmarks.

 

Another scenario is the choosing of which PIDs to look for. Many, we know, are hopeless. So we want to only look for reasonable prospects, at least I do. I spend all the time doing this PID choosing at home. But then when I do walk out the door, I'm only bringing a few PIDs' information - maybe 8-20. I might pass 200 other PIDs on the way to where they are. If I loaded up some handheld computer with 2,000 PIDs and all their descriptions how would I pick which ones to look for? I'd be spending about as much time sitting in my car or on a stump doing what I do now at thome. Do 'paperless' people have some advange here?

 

Are there any softwares that look BOTH on GC.com and NGS to get the latest info. on PIDs?

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I can't imagine doing BM hunting without a PDA. I have the datasheets for every county in South Dakota on my computer. They actually will fit on my 128 mb memory card if I would delete some MP3s. Then before a trip, I just make sure that the right county files are loaded up. I can upload way more benchmarks to my GPSr than I really think I will look for. Then if I decide to change directions or have more time than I thought, there is not problem looking for a few more. Even if I happen upon one on a road somewhere that I haven't got a waypoint for, I have the description with me. By the way, I found out the hard way on a trip to Europe that you should get an armor plated case (rhinoskin) for your PDA.

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We use a laptop for our benchmarks and caches (that old eyes thing).

 

For the benchmarks we download the pages from GC.com for the marks we want to find and save them as text files in their own folder and subfolders for the area we will be in.

 

We put the coordinates into the Mapsend program that's on the laptop. We download them from the Mapsend program to the GPSr and we are ready to go. We use the PID# for the waypoint ID.

 

This way when we driving along we can watch the topomap on the laptop for nearby benchmarks.

 

When we see one we can do a quick check of the text files for that PID# and see what the 'Official History' says and decide if we want to go for it then.

 

We're still learning how to do the paperless thing but we are sure the laptop is easier than a PDA, at least for us.

 

John

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I use a Compaq iPAQ in conjuction with my eTrex Legend when going paperless. I download the datasheets for the desired county from the NGS website and use GSAK (search GC.com for more info) to convert the NGS pages to html files. I then load all of those into my iPAQ which creates a 'web page' for each PID. I then use ExpertGPS to load the waypoints (data sheets) into my Legend.

 

The best thing I've found about benchmark hunting this way is that I can use the 'closest waypoint' feature of my GPSr rather than relying on the few sheets of paper I've chosen to take with me. I have all of the information for the PIDs in my area in web page format which shows everything the NGS data sheet shows (but a bi more readable).

 

For example, I was driving in a nearby town that I'm not really familiar with looking for benchmarks. I had formulated a plan in order to look for the most in a circular route and was driving along. I came to a stop sign and used the 'nearest waypoint' feature of my Legend. What I found was this. Had I not been paperless, I'd have driven right by.

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I'm going to have to side with BDT on this one: I prefer paper. And my wife thinks I'm nuts. I'll attribute it to my surveyor training of always keeping notes in a fieldbook. It just doesn't feel right if I don't write the data down. PDAs are great for holding mass amounts of data (more than just benchmark and geocache data my wife tells me :) ), but when I think of the hardware, software and firmware issues that sometimes arise... lets just say I've yet to see some hardware conflict (or any other type of ware conflict) arise from the meeting of pencil and paper. Not to mention, I don't care if the pencil or paper get wet in the rain, I can throw both of them in the magnetic tank bag for my motorcycle and not have to worry about getting my data scrambled or lost, and I can drop a pencil and paper from hundreds of feet without sustaining any damage. Also, if I do manage to fold, spindle, or otherwise mutilate my pencil or paper, I'm only out about $1.25.

 

When I go hunting for benchmarks, I do a search for the area I'm headed to, and along the route I'm taking, and then print out hard copies of the benchmark sheets, both the GC.com sheets and the original data sheets, and write down my findings on those data sheets. It's just easier for me.

 

- Kewaneh

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I, too, am paper-intensive. My handheld GPS, high-speed wireless notebook, MapSource software and digital camera are all way cool. But I love to hold a toposheet in my hands and annotate either it or the datasheet I've printed when I find or fail to find a benchmark.

 

My general approach to benchmark hunting lends itself to this topo-based process. I start with what appears to be an interesting geographic area, let's say, for example, the MD-DE boundary just northeast of Hebron, MD. Then I run a list out of the NGS site of all the marks in that area (on that 7.5 minute quad). Then I examine each datasheet in GC.com to see which ones I'll look for (I'll look for them all unless they're more than six inches underground, on a RR ROW not near a crossing, or have been NOT FOUND by CGS/NGS). Then I'll print each sheet and file it in a looseleaf notebook, plot each mark on the topo, load them to MapSource and, thence, to my Garmin. The benefit of this laborious process is this: by the time I search for a mark, I have read about it/plotted it/or otherwise manipulated it, and I am well-prepared to find it. When I first started hunting, some marks were easy to find, some were hard to find and some were impossible to find. Having developed this (granted, cumbersome and decidedly low-tech) system, however, there are no longer any hard marks. They're either easy to find or impossible to find.

 

7

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Seventhings,

You have described my method exactly, except for little issue that I only got my Garmin last week, so although I used it on a trip to Connecticut to benchmark WITHOUT a topo map (see post below about how well that couple of days went!), I have yet to do it here with my stack o' maps. I expect to head out Sunday with all my tools though, just as you have described, with two notebooks and about 25 maps in hand (I never know which direction I will head!).

 

To expand on my technique: I would suggest anyone add USA Photo Maps to their toolkit, at least at home. It is fast and very easy to use.

Just like Seven, I spend time marking each benchmark on the topo map with a dot and the PID while displaying them on USA Photo Maps. I switch between the aerial photo view and the topo view to research the marks. I have located a number of marks after noticing landscape changes that were fairly obvious on the photo view--moved roads are especially noticable for many years on a photograph, and the mark may have been beside the "old road", not the new. I make notations on the sheets if warranted.

Unlike Seven, I DO search for almost all "Not found" marks, even CGS/NGS ones, unless they are very inaccessible. Needless to say, all USPSQD "not founds" are suspect and are my best bet for turning a "not found" into a "found".

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