TRAVELERS REST, S.C. – At first glance, the 4-foot-tall, 50-pound backpack that Mac Stone carried in Travelers Rest Friday afternoon may have seemed a little out of place.
Stone, the executive director of Naturaland Trust and a professional wildlife photographer, was collecting imagery along the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail with the Trekker, 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.”
And now, in addition to more popular destinations like the Swamp Rabbit Trail, Stone is helping to bring to travelers and adventurists the world over – even those of the armchair-only variety – views that may be otherwise unknown or overlooked.
“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.”
Although he's not at liberty to discuss the exact locations of where he's been or where he's planning to go, Stone says most everyone he does run across stops to ask him what he's doing.
“What really shocks me is when someone sees me carrying this backpack on a trail and doesn’t stop to ask me what it is,” Stone said with a grin.
Imagery from Stone's treks should be on Google later this year. Until then, you can follow his adventures on Instagram here.
Google first used the Trekker to capture the Grand Canyon in Arizona. And if you want to “travel” a little further, you can take in the sights of Ireland's Cliffs of Moher, which was also captured with the technology.
(Bottom photo via Mac Stone Photo Instagram.)