January 29, 2015

A Unique Way to Use Google Maps: The Site’s Top 5 U.S. Wonders

The Francis Beidler Forest of Four Holes Swamp.  Image from Chris Sanfino on Panoramio

By Megan G.

Have you ever wanted to drop everything and travel around the United States?  Think of braving wild trails, gazing upon tumbling waterfalls, and peeking over sheer mountain cliffs… without leaving the comfort of your home.  Listen up, couch potatoes, because Google Map’s Street View offers more than just a storefront view of your local taco hut.  The application has a whole page dedicated to U.S. Highlights!

I recently learned of these awesome web-adventures from Stephanie Pappas’ Live Science article, which profiles Google Maps’ most recent addition:  the USS Constitution, an 18th-century American warship.  Here are some more beautiful places that any staunch hermit can virtually visit!

1.  USS Constitution, aka “Old Ironsides”

A full view of “Old Ironsides.”  Image from Partizanka on Panoramio

Walk through a piece of history—4 decks of history, in fact!  Seriously, go check this out, because Google Maps’ Street view will be the only way the public can visit this ship for the next three years.  The USS Constitution achieved its maritime celebrity during the War of 1812, and was named by President George Washington himself.  It’s currently going through some extensive restorations, but Google Maps was able to swoop in and capture some sweet panoramas of this historical wonder.  The intimate view of this famous ship truly is a treat to behold!

The forest's boardwalk can also be accessed from U.S. Highlights. 
Image from Swamp Thing on Panoramio.

Come float down a South Carolina blackwater creek in this one-of-a-kind view of Francis Beidler Forest!  Google Maps’ high-def photographs feature a tangle of cypress trees and tupelos twining through shining, reflective waters.  

The forest also serves as an Audubon wildlife sanctuary, providing a home for various species of birds, fish, and amphibians.  If you’ve ever wanted to experience the beauty of an American wetland without the muggy swamp heat, now you can!      

Downstream on Toxaway River.  Image from John Hains on Panoramio

“Voted one of the wildest places in the world by National Geographic,” the Jocassee Gorges of North Carolina boast some of the most amazing views in U.S. Highlights.  Click on the link above, and you’ll find yourself standing in the middle of a long bridge that hangs high over a rocky river.  Both of the river’s banks lead to vast forests of verdant trees, and your Google Maps’ journey takes you right into the thick of them—a risk-free avenue into the wilderness for any skittish homebody.

Another breathtaking sight from South Carolina.  Image from gdc01 on Panoramio

This digital tour, another awe-inspiring, SC visual, takes you through Table Rock State Park.  Google drops you onto the Table Rock Trail, in a sweeping panorama atop a granite mountain.  A green, misty vista stretches out in front of you, satisfying your adventurous spirit without any nasty vertigo kicking in.  The trail, though strenuous for live hikers, is easy for digital trekkers like you and me.  With a simple series of clicks you can descend down a steep trail into Table Rock’s open forest, enjoying the surrounding oaks, pines, and hickory trees without a ton of sweat and side pains.

Reedy River Falls.  Image from SCBerry on Panoramio

Do you dream of beholding a waterfall up close, but avoid getting wet as much as a grumpy housecat?  Mosey your virtual self over to Reedy Falls, whose waters can be viewed along the Swamp Rabbit Trail in another state park, Falls Park on the Reedy.  Most folks only get to see the falls from The Liberty Bridge, but Google Maps provides a unique perspective right at falls’ base.  You can see the swirling, bubbling waters and gorgeous red boulders without suffering a single drop of water.

There you have it:  some fantastic views that a hermit from California, like me, would probably never see!  These are only a few examples of what can be found in U.S. Highlights section.  Google Maps has so much more available for you to explore, from the Gettysburg National Military Park to the San Diego Zoo.  There’s nothing stopping you, now, so start experiencing the United States like you never could before!

What's your favorite location to experience through Google Maps?  Are there any places that you'd actually, physically visit?  Let the Tek Team know in the comments! 

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