Silver Island Bunker Trail: Hike Like a Bot!
At the Center for Land Use Interpretation Wendover Complex, Wendover Utah, USA
The Silver Island Mountain Range is in the arid and barren Great Salt Lake desert in North America. The mountain range is called an "island" because it is surrounded by the salt flats and muds of the ancient Pleistocene era lake Bonneville, now dry in this area. The nearby cities of West Wendover, Nevada, and Wendover, Utah, are bisected by the border between the two states. West Wendover never sleeps, featuring many casinos, adult distractions and reasonably priced hotel rooms. Wendover Utah features the historic Wendover Air Field, an industrial landscape focusing primarily on mineral extraction, aviation, military uses, and the facilities and exhibit halls of the Center for Land Use Interpretation. (www.clui.org)
The Silver Island Range seen from the Bonneville Salt Flats
Using the Open Source C5 Landscape Database API (www.c5corp.com), paintersflat.net used a "virtual hiker" (a generative computer algorithm) to identify a hiking path across the island between two abandoned World War Two era bunkers, one on the West shore of the Silver Island Range, the other on the East shore. The virtual hiker implements the A* algorithm, an artificial intelligence path finding algorithm often used in computer games, executed over digital elevation model data describing the terrain as a friction surface. The algorithm produced a Global Positioning System tracklog file, which was uploaded to a GPS device, allowing Brett Stalbaum and Paula Poole to be the first to hike the very traversable trail on March 26th, 2007 and possibly allowing them to become the first people ever to traverse a real landscape as an artificially intelligent game bot would cross it.
C5 Landscape Database map of the trail
Trail on topographic map (from USGS 1:100,000 Bonnevile Salt Flats Map)
The public is free to enjoy this new type of public wilderness hiking trail as locative media walking art. All that is required is to upload the tracklog files (available as .csv and .gpx files) to a GPS device, and then to really follow the virtual trail. The trail itself exists entirely on public land as a rugged overland track that is easily accessible from Interstate Highway 80 in Western Utah. Proper backcountry safety should be taken into account, as the landscape is mountainous and without any natural water resources. Weather conditions in this part of the American West can be extreme, so proper preparation is important. Though unlikely, improper preparation, poor judgment or bad luck (alone or in any combination) could lead to injury or death in this absolutely sublime desert landscape.
This project was supported by the CLUI Wendover Residence Program (www.clui.org). Paintersflat thanks CLUI for all of their support, and thanks C5 (www.c5corp.com) (of which Brett is a founding member) for the use of the software and for supporting and inspiring the development of Virtual Hiking and generative locative media in the first place.
A rock hound paradise, the sedimentary geology of the Silver Island Mountains contain beautiful agates, sandstones and metamorphic rock.