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Google's 'Street View' Hits the Hiking Trail

Seeing as Google's Street View crew already use a trike and a snowmobile, it's nice to see them getting back to basics and just walking for once. Not that they have much of an option: a vehicle would have a rough time making it where they're going.

There apparently is a man at Google who has strapped a 40-pound photography rig onto himself and is now hiking all over America's scenic parks and fields. The rig contains 15 digital cameras and is juiced enough for a two-day trek in the wilds. It looks like a big robot eye or the electricity-spurting part of a Tesla coil, but it's harmless, so don't be alarmed if you see this guy lumbering over the ridge like a lunar astronaut.

Google plans to record panoramic views of the Grand Canyon, the Muir Woods, "national parks, ruins, castles and other great hikes," according to Tree Hugger. It's a hefty addition to the company's previous walkabouts in the Alps and the Amazon.

Some might argue that this endeavor takes away some of the mystery of the wilderness; a great joy of hiking, after all, is stumbling across an unexpected waterfall or abandoned building. Then again, "hike reports" available online can vary greatly depending on the writer (and the size of his or her calf muscles), and can be spotty for certain trails. It would be nice to get an idea of what you're heading into via photos before committing to the journey.

Plus, if the camera catches a grizzly in the brush, you'd probably want to bring bear spray. Here's hoping that Google's camera guy already packed his. And, Google, would you mind having your man in the woods tell us how many mosquito bites he suffered during each sojourn? We can all avoid those places.

John Metcalfe is a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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