Virtual tours of some of South Carolina's most scenic places went online Tuesday, thanks to a partnership between Upstate conservation group Naturaland Trust and Google Maps.
South Carolina joins other tourist destinations, including Florida and Hawaii, that have used Google Maps equipment to give would-be visitors and outdoor enthusiasts the world over a glimpse of places typically not seen on the web-based mapping service.
As the Tribune first reported in August of last year, Mac Stone, the executive director of Naturaland Trust and a professional wildlife photographer, was collecting imagery along the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail with the Trekker, a 4-foot-tall, 50-pound backpack — part of a Google Street View program to map trails and hard-to-reach places around the world.
The backpack — which uses the same technology as the Internet giant's well known Street View cars — is outfitted with a 15-camera, 360-degree panoramic imaging system, and its portability enables volunteers like Stone to gather images while maneuvering through tight, narrow spaces – places usually only accessible by foot.
Stone said it was his girlfriend's idea to apply for the global program, something he never really thought he'd be chosen to take part in.
“I sent in the application but didn't think I'd hear anything back,” he said. “Two months later, I was at home and got a call. They liked my application and asked if I'd like to be a Trekker.”
“What I thought would be neat would be to take the pack into the more remote areas of the Upstate and the Lowcountry – places that even very few South Carolinians may know about,” Stone said. “I want to show people what we have here, because it's pretty incredible.”
And now, using the imagery from about three months of Stone's volunteer hiking and paddling, the Street View maps are available online, oftentimes providing stunning views of many of the state's scenic vistas and natural wonders.
Interact below to navigate a destination and/or trail. After a little practice with mouse movements, you'll be taking virtual hikes (and paddles) across the state. Click the links above each map to view on Google.