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Diving into Fears

By Alan Murray,
Uncharted Staff

Uncharted's President and founder dives at Dutch Springs near Bethlehem, Pa. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

Uncharted’s President and founder dives at Dutch Springs near Bethlehem, Pa.  “One reason I keep diving is because I think it’s important to take on new challenges outside my personal comfort zone. The lessons I learn have helped me gain greater self-confidence and have enhanced my work for Uncharted,” Murray said. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

Uncharted is about exploration. One of the reasons we founded the company is because we love exploring the world and sharing our adventures with others. That’s the idea behind the new online exploration community we are developing. Sometimes our explorations take us far from home, while other times we make discoveries in our own backyards. But it’s those discoveries we make within ourselves that I have found are the most rewarding. It could be finding a hidden talent, learning a new skill, taking on a challenging task, or, in my case, overcoming a personal fear.

I’m afraid of scuba diving. I’m not exactly sure what it is that makes me nervous about diving. I like swimming and enjoy all kinds of water sports, but for some reason I get nervous when it comes time to go below.

I’ve been a certified open water diver for over two years. After several practice sessions in a local swimming pool, a written final exam and four open water dives in two different locations, I completed Diver Level 2 certification. But my fears about diving didn’t suddenly disappear when the certification card arrived in the mail. Each time I dive, I still feel a little anxious.

Last weekend I went to Dutch Springs, a recreation area and aqua park near Bethlehem, Pa. that offers scuba diving, camping and boating. It reminds me of a life-size freshwater aquarium filled with fish, some dive platforms and a variety of submerged vehicles, aircraft and other decorative objects for divers to explore.

A diver swims near the surface of Dutch Spring in Bethlehem, Pa. The former quarry is now a recreational area and aqua park for diving, camping and boating. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

A diver swims near the surface of Dutch Springs in Bethlehem, Pa. The former quarry is now a recreational area and aqua park for diving, camping and boating. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

One reason I keep diving is that I think it’s important to take on new challenges outside my personal comfort zone. The lessons I learn have helped me gain greater self-confidence and have enhanced my work for Uncharted.

I also hate having limits on where I can go. A large part of being a journalist is putting yourself in the right place at the right time to capture moments that tell compelling stories, either with a camera, audio or through the written word. It’s hard to take photos or write about underwater locations if you can’t hang out underwater longer than the amount of time you can hold your breath.

I have two goals each time I dive – improve my diving skills and become a better underwater photographer. I have a lot to learn about diving. It takes practice and concentration. Depending on the water temperature, you’re often wearing a very constrictive wetsuit, hood and gloves, to say nothing of the upwards of 20 pounds strung around your weight belt, your buoyancy control device (BCD) and your regulator. You have to watch the level of air in your tank, manage buoyancy, keep track of where you are, make sure you don’t collide with other divers and see that your diving buddy is safe. Taking photos is just one more thing that can distract from performing the many skills needed for a successful and safe dive.

Because of my inexperience as a diver, my photography usually suffers. I’ve returned from many of my dives disappointed in my photographs. On several occasions, I’ve come back without any usable images.

Uncharted's Alan Murray dives at Dutch Springs near Bethlehem, Pa. This image was taken with a GoPro Hero 3 Black edition. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

Uncharted’s Alan Murray dives at Dutch Springs near Bethlehem, Pa. This image was taken with a GoPro Hero 3 Black edition. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

Things I would normally do instinctively while taking photos above the water are more difficult below. It’s more challenging to keep the camera steady while floating and dealing with currents. Perspectives underwater are also distorted, making objects appear closer than they really are.  And I’m still getting used to maneuvering myself to the right place at the right time for capturing an image. While I have demonstrated repeatedly the ability to do these commonplace things above the water, my diving skills sometimes hold me back from getting an image that would ordinarily be easier to capture on the surface.

I usually dive with my friend Steve, an experienced professional diver and engineer who dives under difficult conditions for the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). We start slow at a depth of 20 feet near some dive platforms used for training students. We review some basic skills and soon venture a little deeper, exploring a submerged fire truck.

At this point, I’m comfortable enough with the dive to switch my camera on and begin taking photos. Out of all the dives I’ve been on, this one is the first time where I feel completely comfortable focusing on some photography. While I clearly have room for improvement, I manage to come back with some images that convey how it feels to explore underwater locations. As my diving skills improve, my underwater photography seems to follow.

 Alan Murray is the President and a co-founder of Uncharted. He likes snowshoeing and scuba diving. To learn about Alan or to see more of his photography, check out his personal photo website. If you have questions for Alan, feel free to comment below.

Night Photography at French Creek State Park

By Alan Murray,
Uncharted Staff

Stars peek through patches of cloud over French Creek State Park near Elverson, Pa. This exposure was taken with a Nikon D800 at ISO 1000 with a 24mm lens at f/2.8 for 20 seconds. (© 2013 Alan Murray/Uncharted)

Stars peek through patches of clouds over French Creek State Park near Elverson, Pa. This exposure was taken with a Nikon D800 at ISO 1000 with a 24mm lens at f/2.8 for 20 seconds. Click on the image to view larger. (© 2013 Alan Murray/Uncharted)

Things don’t always go the way I plan. This is especially true when it comes to photography. I was reminded of that this week as I kicked off a long-term project that includes photographing night skies for Uncharted. The idea is to document different astronomical events taking place at various locations around the world, and show how different cultures perceive and interact with the cosmos. It’s a great excuse for taking a break from web programming, project managing, and other forms of tedious office work that have kept me inside more than a person who works at Uncharted should be required to do.

It’s going to be some time before I finish, but I’ll be sharing how things are going, including some occasional glimpses of images I collect along my travels. I’ll also share some helpful tips for taking your own photos.

This week I decided to explore French Creek State Park near Elverson, Pa. Once an industrial complex for the United States, the park is the largest contiguous block of forest between Washington D.C. and New York City, offering a variety of activities that include hiking, fishing, camping and biking.

Even though I grew up only 50 miles away, I had never been there and was hoping it might provide a good backdrop for portions of my project. I was also hoping to capture some glimpses of the Perseids meteor shower which peaked over the weekend.

I knew a couple factors would affect how my images turned out. The Philadelphia area is no friend to dark skies, and even though French Creek is more than 50 miles from there, its proximity to smaller cities such as Reading and Pottstown could pose some challenges, especially for capturing glimpses of meteor showers.

I confirmed my suspicions with the Dark Sky Finder, a helpful online tool that maps light pollution levels around the world. Areas highlighted in black, blue and green are more ideal for stargazing, while the ambient light emanating from nearby cities limits visibility in yellow, orange, red and white zones.

French Creek was in the orange.

The weather forecast was ambiguous, promising anything from thunderstorms to clear conditions. This, coupled with a typically humid and hazy climate, threatened to make things even more difficult than usual.

I scouted some locations and planned the night. Visibility was good and the weather looked like it was going to cooperate. I set up camp, ate dinner, and prepared my gear for the evening.

For this shoot, I used two cameras, a Nikon D800 and a Nikon D700. Both cameras, mounted on tripods, were focused on different scenes to increase the likelihood of capturing more meteors.  I set the built-in intervalometer in both cameras to take 20-second exposures every 21 seconds.  This is helpful because you can increase your chances of having the shutter open when an unexpected meteor passes, and it frees you up to take other photos, take a nap or grab an evening snack. If your camera doesn’t have one, there are a variety of wired intervalometers compatible with different brands and models. To avoid camera shake, I also used a cable release to trigger the camera.

I won’t go into too much more detail about exposures and camera settings except to say that I set my ISO at 1000 and used a 24mm lens at f/2.8. I also used a white balance in the area of 3800 Kelvin. I suggest experimenting with different ISO, white balance and exposure settings until you find what works best. The more mistakes you make, the more you learn, and when we learn from our mistakes we begin taking better photos more consistently.

I was planning on shooting from about 11 p.m. until sunrise, but at 2 a.m. clouds slowly smothered my view. They were followed by a storm that lasted until morning. This reminded me of a couple months earlier when clouds covered my view while photographing the supermoon at Valley Forge National Historic Park. 

I snapped this photo while scouting out locations for my night photography. It's important not to lose site of other opportunities even though your primary objective might be something completely different. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

I snapped this photo at Scotts Run Lake while scouting out locations for my night photography. It’s important not to lose sight of other opportunities even though your primary objective might be something completely different. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

I’ve learned on a number of occasions that when things don’t quite work out the way you expect, that there are often opportunities to use the very things keeping you from getting the shot you want (in this case clouds and light pollution) to capture an improvised alternative shot. This philosophy is easily adaptable to just about anything else that I do at Uncharted or in life.

Even though the clouds obstructed the meteors I was trying to capture, they provided a unique effect as they moved across the sky over those 20-second exposures. This, combined with light pollution from nearby cities somehow worked to my advantage and gave the scene a more colorful and layered look. Earlier, as I scouted locations for my night shots, I found a nice scene of a fisher at Scotts Run Lake during sunset. While I hadn’t planned on these alternative shots, being open to other options helped me see moments I otherwise might have passed over.

If there is anything I haven’t covered here or you have more questions, post a comment below and I’ll do my best to help out. If you’re looking for more hands-on learning, you can sign up for my travel photography course. 

Alan Murray is the President and a co-founder of Uncharted. He likes scuba diving and snowshoeing. When Alan was five, he wanted to be an astronaut. If you’d like to learn more about Alan or view samples of his photography, check out his personal photo site. 

 

First Cameras and Learning Travel Photography

By Alan Murray,
Uncharted Staff

My very first camera was a Canon AT-1. It survived 11 years of pounding, dropping and water damage before I finally decided to upgrade my equipment. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

My very first camera was a Canon AT-1. It survived 11 years of pounding, dropping and water damage before I finally decided to upgrade my equipment. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

I still have my very first camera. It hangs on my office door, a reminder of when cameras didn’t automatically focus, set exposure and advance frames. Covered with a thin layer of dust, its once shiny metallic body is now stained with rust and engraved with scratches. There are smudges on the lens and its battery door is ajar, exposing an old six-volt lithium that once powered the camera’s only electronic function – the light meter.

That was the camera I used in high school while working for the school paper. It was the camera I used when I went to college. It was the camera I used at my first job.

With it I documented the life of Catholic Cistercian monks in a small western town. I used it to cover professional and collegiate sports, accidents, fires and severe storms. And despite the absence of sophisticated electronics and automatic functions, I somehow won several state and national awards with it.

Eventually, I reached a point in my photography where I needed to upgrade my equipment, but the things I learned using that very first camera still help me today as I use the latest digital photographic technology to document the world’s people, cultures and hidden places for Uncharted.

Uncharted's Alan Murray works on a photo shoot at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Northwestern Utah. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

Uncharted’s Alan Murray works on a photo shoot at the Bonneville Salt Flats in northwestern Utah. (© 2013 Andrew E. Clark/Uncharted)

I love photography and I love exploring the world, so it’s great when I get a chance to bring my two passions together. That’s why I’m excited to offer personalized travel photography instruction through Uncharted. If you’re a beginner with your very first digital camera, I can help you figure it out. If you’re an advanced amateur or somewhere in between, I can help you polish your skills. If you need help picking out your first camera, I can give you some advice.

To get started, sign up for a free online consultation. I’ll talk with you about your personal goals and skill level and come up with a training plan just for you or your group. I’ll also keep you informed about upcoming photo workshops and other learning opportunities in your area. Speaking of other opportunities, our resident geographer and orienteering athlete is offering instruction in both land navigation and map reading. These are helpful skills for avoiding getting lost on your way to capture a cool photo.

At Uncharted, we love exploring the world and sharing our adventures with everyone. We’re excited to offer these learning opportunities and hope they will be helpful as you create your own adventures.

Alan Murray is President and a co-founder of Uncharted. He likes scuba diving and snowshoeing. He is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and has lived and traveled extensively in South and Central America. Alan resides in the Philadelphia, Pa. area. To learn more about Alan and see some of his photography, take a look at his personal photography site

New “Do” Menu and “Learn” Options Activated

By GeoJoe,
Uncharted Staff

DO
We’re happy to announce that the “Do” menu is now active, and the first submenu, “Learn,” is also active!  In practical terms, this means that you can start learning and improving your explorer skills through Uncharted. The first learning opportunities include personalized custom training in map reading and land navigation.  We’ll add additional learning opportunities as we move the project along.  We’ve been eager to provide this kind of support to our audience, so we’re very happy to have reached this milestone and look forward to delivering this training many times over!

National Trail Day Top Ten – 2013

GD CRATERS 14 8-18-07

By GeoJoe,
Uncharted Staff

This Saturday the American Hiking Society and thousands of people across the United States at hundreds of events celebrate National Trail Day, the nation’s largest annual celebration of trails. It is a time to enjoy and show your appreciation for trails by doing something to make them better for everybody. Typical activities include hikes, biking and horseback rides, paddling trips, birdwatching, geocaching, gear demonstrations, stewardship projects and more.

National Trail Day is an Uncharted day. Our goal at Uncharted is to help you make your own discoveries, experience new adventures and gain new skills that empower your journeys. We hope everyone will join us this Saturday on National Trail Day to visit a favorite or new trail, enjoy it for a while, and do something nice for that trail that you enjoy so much.

You might also consider visiting one of literally hundreds of National Trail Day events being held across the country. In reviewing these events, there are ten that stand out as perfectly suited for an Uncharted explorer at heart:

1.  Trail Reclamation, Bear Mountain State Park, N.Y.  You might recall our earlier blog post where we discussed Uncharted’s drive to empower our audience with the information, tools and skills they need to go where there is no path, leaving a trail for others to follow. Given Uncharted’s commitment to acts of exploration, education and service, awarding the No. 1 spot to the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference’s Trail Reclamation event was an easy choice. Those who come, will work with Trail Builder and Educator, Ama Koenigshof, and the Bear Mountain interns to help build trails on the mountain.

2.  Summer Outdoor Slam, Curt Gowdy State Park, Wyo. This event showcases great things to do outside-hiking, cycling, rock climbing, fishing, archery, kayaking, and more. You’ll be able to try your hand at all these activities. Environmental education, art in the park, and wildlife identification are also offered.  Instruction is lead by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

3.  Experience the Gem at Your Own Backdoor – the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, Trenton, Mich. Hosted by the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance at the Humbug Marsh Unit, you can explore these trails and experience the last untouched mile of shoreline on the Detroit River. Two trails are available for use, including one where you will likely see nesting bald eagles soar above the water. Another trail takes you back to an old oak-hickory forest with 300-year-old trees! At noon EST. you can help with a reforestation project in the Refuge Gateway by planting trees from noon to 2 p.m. Plant a native tree, get the GPS coordinate, and watch it grow in the upcoming years. Families are welcome!

4.  XtremeFest of the Blue Ridge, Constitution Park, Waynesboro, Va.  This event will show you the ins and outs of adventure sports like rock climbing, kayaking, mountain biking and hiking with a goal to promote a healthy, active lifestyle. There will be something for everyone–novices included.  The event also includes day product demonstrations and informative classes. You also can test your skills with opportunities to hike, bike, paddle and climb throughout the day.

5.  Geocaching the Boggy Creek Trail, Jimmie Davis State Park, La. Geocachers can enjoy a great family day exploring the Boggy Creek Trail and searching for six newly-placed geocaches. GPS coordinates are available at the park entrance station. The trailhead is located in the boat launch parking lot.

6.  National Trail Day Summer Sampler: Rock Climbing Skills, Crow Hill, Mass. Enjoy a day of climbing at Crow Hill and learning skills for safely moving over steep terrain, brought to you by the Appalachian Mountain Club. Rope-work will be taught and reviewed, climbing skills will be demonstrated and practiced, and you will have an opportunity to complete single pitch rock climbs. E-mail dogmandb@gmail.com for info.

7.  The California Trail Demonstrations, Southfork State Recreation Area, Nev.  Hosted by Nevada State Parks. Meet at the East campground.  Demonstrations will reflect the hardships, hazards and triumphs experienced by families who dared to journey west. Journey back in time and see what life was like for these pioneers who were in search of a better life. Call the park for more information at 775-744-4346.

8.  National Trail Days Low Impact Canoeing, Deerfield & Connecticut Rivers, Mass. Enjoy canoeing and camping trails of water, also known as rivers! Instruction on bow and stern canoe paddling strokes and managing a canoe or kayak in strong currents is available as needed.

9.  First Ever Park Volunteer Event, Powhatan on the James State Park, Va. Come out to help a brand new state park preparing to open later in June 2013. It will be their first ever volunteer work day to help them prepare for their grand opening. Hot Dog Lunch and brief organizational meeting of the Friends of Powhatan State Park at noon EST.

10.  Photo Scavenger Hunt, Groen Park, Chatfield, Minn. Take pictures while hiking on the Lost Creek Hiking Trail. Photos will be submitted to and judged by members of the Bluff Country Hiking Club.

These are just a sampling of great events being held this Saturday on National Trail Day. Chances are high that if you can’t make it to any of the Uncharted Top 10 National Trail Day events, there will still be plenty of others to choose from wherever you are at. Check the National Trail Day event finder for a Trail Day event near you.

We’ll be excited to see how your trail day went. Post a photo of your trail day event on our Facebook page to inspire the rest of us. Happy trails!

Why You Want Map Reading Skills

learning
By GeoJoe,
Uncharted Staff

OK, I admit it.  I love maps.  That’s “Love” with a big capital “L”!  I also admit that I’m a geographer, so that makes me a little geeky, not well understood, and yes, biased.  Now that I’ve cleared that disclaimer up, what you might not know about me is that despite all my training, knowledge, experience, and even despite my fluency with using really geeky and high-tech navigation tools, I still get lost sometimes. From the streets of Beijing, to my own familiar forest I use for orienteering training, to flying an airplane over areas that are very familiar to me on the ground, I still get lost sometimes.  What tool is it that helps prevent these messes from becoming a disaster?  You’ve got it, the mighty map!

Maps are easy to take for granted, but there are so many ways a map can help us in our journeys.  For starters, a map can motivate.  Just looking at a topographic map of Yosemite National Park makes me want to be there, out in that terrain, walking those trails.  I start seeing trails that look like they would be really cool to use, or points of interest on the map that I want to see.  In just a few scans across the map I notice new points of interest that I haven’t heard of before, or I’m reminded of places that other people have recommended.

The same information that would take me hours to absorb reading, only takes seconds with the aid of a map. With maps, at a short glance, I can decipher terrain, distances, and proximities between places of interest.  I see areas I’ve already explored and am drawn into looking at those I haven’t. Try it out yourself.  Take some time to look at a map of a place you’ve always wanted to visit.  I guarantee it will motivate you.

Maps also help us navigate unfamiliar places.  Before I go on a trip to an unfamiliar city I always look at a map.  After landing and passing through airport security, I look for even better maps of the local area. Making this small effort has helped my trips go more smoothly and made my experiences much more interesting. When I find myself in a certain location and realize I have more time to spend than planned, I take a look at the map to see what other interesting places are nearby, and next thing I know I’m at another cool place. Not to mention there are many cities that can be quite complex to navigate, with winding roads, complicated transit systems, and confusing addresses that would make finding points of interest and following verbal or written directions a nightmare for someone without a map.

Guys take note that the better your map reading skills, the less likely you will ever have to stop and ask for directions again!  Gals take note that the better your map reading skills, the easier it will be to explain to your favorite lost guy why you’re right.

That geeky technology I talked about includes one type of gadget I absolutely adore.  The moving map GPS/navigation display.  They’ve become so widely available that you can get them in a rental car for just a few more bucks a day.  These are great tools that make getting from point A to point B a cinch, even for someone who doesn’t know anything about how a GPS works.

The problem is what happens when it breaks. Use these gadgets long enough and you will definitely run into a time when it stops working and you need to rely on a map instead.  For example, last weekend I was using GPS to navigate from my hotel to an orienteering race at Cuyahoga National Park south of Cleveland, Ohio (an awesome place, by the way).  Something went wrong and it took my GPS more than 20 minutes to reacquire lost satellite signals.  I was late and couldn’t wait for the GPS to re-acquire the signal and make sense of its new position.  Thankfully I had a map–not a great map, but good enough to get me to the park.  Once I arrived, I picked up a park map  that gave me the details I needed so I could make it to registration on time.  Between these two maps and my very fast driving (I won’t say how fast), I didn’t miss out on a splendid day of orienteering in the scenic and forested hills of Cuyahoga National Park. This is not the first time I’ve had a GPS fail me, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Each time, my map reading skills saved the day.  And by the way, those flashy GPS units are now integrating map data into the GPS screen displays more and more, so map reading skills are becoming increasingly important for interpreting what a GPS is displaying.

Maps exist for many purposes.  Topographic maps, subway maps, Google maps, United States Geological Survey (USGS) quads, street maps, geologic maps, park maps, subterranean maps, marine navigation maps, aeronautical maps, and even maps of our universe.  So wherever you want to go, a map can help you get there, help you navigate, help you gain a new perspective about a location, and help you understand important spatial relationships.  But in order for the map to help you, you have to be able to understand how to find it, how to interpret it, and how to use it.

For these reasons and many others, I am excited to announce that I’m now offering Uncharted “Map Reading for Explorers” instruction that can be customized for you and your group to help you meet your specific goals and training needs–online or in person.

For example, if you have an upcoming backpacking trip and want to improve your skills interpreting the terrain and finding good maps for your trip, I can help you acquire map skills specifically useful for that journey.  Or perhaps there’s a trip that you’ve been wanting to take to some far-off city, but you want help with finding and understanding how to read urban street or transportation maps. I can help you with that too.  Or maybe you have a GPS but want to know how to get a track file off of it and onto a map so that you can see where you went.Whatever your map related goals you have, Uncharted is here to help you achieve them.

Offering something like this requires significant time investment, my own expertise, materials, and logistics, so there will be some cost for this training; but we will offer a free introductory consultation session online to help you get started so that I can hear what specific goals you have. We’ll come up with a customized training plan that meets your specific goals and then present it to you with no obligation.  The actual training will be accomplished at reasonable cost, and as always, it will be discounted for all who have joined Uncharted as an Explorer.

I look forward to getting this started.  As Uncharted’s geographer, I feel like I have a tremendous opportunity to help people go places.  Sharing what I’ve learned through my own journeys is something I’m excited to do and one of the reasons I’m so passionate about being involved with Uncharted.  I will also be looking for other opportunities where Uncharted can help people enhance their map reading skills.  For example, next month Uncharted is donating my work time and some resources so I can help a local high school class learn how to use maps and compasses during a nature outing with their teacher.  So whether you’re young or seasoned, a new explorer or an experienced adventurer, Uncharted is here to support you in your journey.

 

Go Where There is No Path

By GeoJoe,
Uncharted Staff

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

This captures the essence of what Uncharted is all about.

Explore HikerOur audience and our staff live by this.  Everything we are trying to develop and offer is intended to help everyone else do this.  If we can help you get the resources, skills, and information you need to journey off the beaten path, to make your own discoveries, to connect with like-minded people who also want to go where there is no path (maybe even with you!), then we have succeeded.  And if we leave a trail (or if you leave a trail) for others to expand their own horizons, then we have succeeded times two.

Too often life bogs us down with a minutia of details, routines, and mundane activities. We find ourselves doing the same things over and over. We follow the same beaten path that every other person has travelled before–seeing the same sights, taking the same pictures, eating the same meals that everyone else has.

As I’ve traveled the world, I admit that too often I consulted one of those travel guides to see what other people say are the “must see” places.  Later I realized it was the moments along those journeys when I made my own unique discoveries that I treasured the most.

At Uncharted we aim to help the world journey off those beaten paths of life, whether that regards travel, sports, recreation, culture, nature, education, or even the cosmos. We’re charting a new path, and what an adventure it is!

If going where there is no path resonates with you, we want to connect with you.  Sign up and we’ll keep you updated on the progress of Uncharted’s online community of explorers now in the making.  As we continue developing our new website and expanding our services, we’ll also share helpful information, resources, and tools to help you journey off the beaten path and leave new trails for others to follow.

I’m so excited to meet so many of you out there and to re-connect with the explorer community.  Some of you have been with us from the beginning and I am so encouraged by your support.  I know there are endless discoveries to be made, and as time goes on I will have the tremendous opportunity to see what trails you leave behind for the rest of us to follow.  So don’t let anyone limit you to that trodden path!  Be yourself, achieve greatness, and inspire the rest of us.  We just can’t wait to see what you discover!

Joe is a Co-Founder, Communications Director and resident geographer of Uncharted.  He has a Master’s degree in Geography, speaks Chinese, serves as an international affairs officer in the Air Force, and has traveled to over 35 countries on 5 continents.  He enjoys flying, the sport of orienteering, skiing, and traveling.  

Redesigned Uncharted Website

By Alan Murray
Uncharted Staff

We’re back! Explorers now have a new home in the making. We’re excited to unveil a newly redesigned Uncharted website. We’re working hard so that  you can share your own adventures and connect with people from around the world. Sign up and we’ll let you know when you can set up camp on Uncharted with your own personal “My World” page where you can share your own adventures, link up with others, and enhance your travels with advice from local experts.

In the meantime, our staff and contributors will whet your appetites for exploration with photo galleries, stories, upcoming events, and new features. To kick off the sharing, check out our story and photo gallery on Wind Cave, a hiking trail in northern Utah.

Your suggestions over the past year have helped us bring Uncharted to where it is today. We’re always eager to hear more of your ideas about how we can improve and what kind of things you want to see on the site. Send us your suggestions through the site’s notification form and we’ll respond as soon as possible. And if you don’t like email, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Lost Parking Brakes and Founded Companies

By Alan Murray
Uncharted Staff 

I keep missing the parking brake. My left foot rises into the air, hovers over the pedal, and pushes downward, only to hit the floor mat in disappointment. I try again, this time moving my foot in circular search patterns and hitting the floor mat again. I look down. There’s no parking brake. It’s back in Salt Lake City in the rental I used for ten days on a recent trip for Uncharted.

Aside from getting into the bad habit of using my rental’s parking brake, my trip proved productive and significant. I’m pleased to say that we have further translated our vision for Uncharted into reality by forming a new company, Uncharted, LLC. We’ve been working on this for a long time now.

It began a few years ago when a group of friends and professionals came together to find ways to explore the world and lead active lifestyles. Back then, there was no Uncharted, just an idea. We worked full-time jobs and funded the project with our own time and money. We even formed a company called Great Divide Media, L.L.C.

The idea evolved and us with it. We learned new skills, met new people and broadened our understanding of things we’d never thought possible. We made some mistakes, and we learned from those mistakes. We also achieved some goals. With limited time and funding, we launched the Uncharted website and gathered a small community of friends focused on exploring the world’s geographic and cultural marvels. We brought each other to our own corners of the globe one journey at a time. With your help, we saw experiences from Africa to Asia, to the Americas, Europe and Oceania. We even acquired trademark ownership of the Uncharted name and decided to embrace this opportunity by moving on from Great Divide Media to Uncharted, LLC.

Last year, I left my full-time journalism career and moved from Utah back to my home state of Pennsylvania to devote a more serious effort towards the Uncharted idea. It’s been an exciting year. As the President and a co-founder of Uncharted, I have spent most of that time setting up our new entity and working with our Director of Presentation, Andrew E. Clark and his team of programmers to get our website redesigned, developed and launched for 2012. Each day we get closer to realizing that goal. The new website will be home for our community of explorers and their many adventures, but it is only a small part of our vision.

Our small team is working on a variety of ways to help you explore the world, connect with like-minded people and share about your experiences. We want to thank our explorers and each of you for your feedback and patience as Uncharted, now pointed to this blog, undergoes its transformation. We’re excited about the next few months and the many opportunities our new site will provide as we once again prepare to explore the world with you one journey at a time.

Alan Murray is the President and a co-founder of Uncharted.
He likes to scuba dive and snowshoe. To contact Alan about
becoming involved with Uncharted or to give him advice on
how to use his parking brake, write to alan@uncharted.net.

Slow! Construction Zone

By Alan Murray
Uncharted Staff

Work continues on our little project, now a noticeably larger, gigantic project that has spanned several years in the making. It’s a true cyber construction zone to say the least. If you thought you were going to www.uncharted.net, you may be wondering why you were taken to our blog instead. Uncharted is undergoing some server maintenance over the next day or two and we appreciate your patience as we clean things up a bit.

And yes, you heard correctly. I was talking about our “current site.” We’ve taken some of your feedback and have been working like crazy around the clock for the last few months on a totally new site with some much-requested improvements and new features that will make sharing your adventures and linking up with other explorers a bit easier. We’ll be giving you some glimpses into those changes as we get closer, but for now we’d like to say thanks for your support over the last few years and especially for your patience over the last few months as we’ve taken some much needed time to regroup and plan for the future. We’ll keep you posted about the new site as it gets closer to launch time.

Alan Murray is the President of Uncharted. He
wishes he were out scuba diving right now instead
of fixing websites and writing business documents.
You may contact him at alan@uncharted.net