Nature Conservancy of Canada Chase Woods site manager Irvin Banman prepares to carry the Google Trekker up Mount Tzouhalem in September 2015 to capture the popular hiking trail for the whole world to see. (Citizen file)

Mount Tzouhalem goes live around the world with Google Trekker

Popular Chase Woods trail was captured in 2015 for online release

Armchair hikers can now take a trek up Mount Tzouhalem without leaving home.

The popular Cowichan Valley hiking trail through Chase Woods was one of two routes in B.C. captured in 2015 thanks to a partnership between Google and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and one of 18 sites mapped across the country. The products of the partnership were recently released online.

To gather the footage, staff with the not-for-profit organization walked carrying the Google Trekker, a 29kg (50-pound) backpack with a camera system on it. The Google Trekker camera is a green orb about the size of a soccer ball that perches above the head of the wearer. The camera’s 15 lenses take an image every 2.5 seconds. The images are tagged with a GPS location, then sent to Google to be stitched together into the 360-degree trail view that allows viewers to walk the trail online.

The Trekker was taken to two NCC conservation areas in B.C.: Chase Woods on Mount Tzouhalem and Darkwoods in the South Selkirk Mountains, near Nelson. NCC Chase Woods site manager Irvin Banman carried the Trekker up Mount Tzouhalem.

“The reason we are excited about doing Google Trekker hikes is that really anyone can go and experience nature that we’ve helped to conserve,” said NCC B.C. Region communications and engagement manager Lesley Neilson. “Chase Woods is a beautiful spot, and people who live in the Valley hike up there, to the cross, all the time. What better way to share the space than to use Google technology to put you in the space as if you’re really there?”

The Google Trekker hikes will also help the NCC promote its cause.

“We work to conserve nature, and we do that with the support of people who want to save nature,” Neilson explained. “People want to protect what they love and they love what they know.”

A complete list of sites from across Canada can be viewed at www.natureconservancy.ca/trekker.

“We hope these images will excite people in Canada and around the world to explore some of our most stunning and diverse landscapes, coast to coast,” said NCC president and CEO John Lounds. “Our mandate is to conserve our precious places, connect Canadians to nature and inspire people to cherish and care for all that nature gives us. We are pleased to work with Google to bring these conservation areas to a wider audience.”