2013 Hyundai Santa Fe: Off-Road Navigation
August 22, 2013
Our Hyundai Santa Fe's navigation system got under my skin in the first part of my Oregon vacation because it tried to route me on dirt roads across private land with locked gates and "Keep Out" signs.
But the dirt roads weren't the problem because I had designs on a little back country off-road travel while I was up there. A few days later dad and I found ourselves heading out on some Forest Service fire and logging roads to visit Snow Camp lookout and Game Lake near the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in southern Oregon.
The dirt road wasn't hard to follow at first, but soon enough unmarked spurs and branches went off in numerous directions. The rule of thumb in such cases is to stay on the biggest one, but there was a time or two where that was a coin toss.
This is where the Santa Fe's navigation system was a real help. It had the area's major national forest roads in its database, with the main ones labeled with their forest service designations. We felt comfortable pressing on into unfamiliar territory because the moving map could always guide us back out the way we came.
I'm usually good at using landmarks instead, but heavy morning fog and dense trees made that a bit tough. For its part the Google Maps app on my smartphone was worthless out here in the land of "No Service."
After a couple of hours we rolled up to the fork in the road we were expecting. A much narrower track went on up to Snow Camp Lookout while the main "road" continued on to Game Lake. We decided to take the side road up to the lookout first.
A huge fire pretty much destroyed the Kalmiopsis Wilderness about 6 years back, and its western march took out the lookout building. Our road ended about 0.4 miles from the lookout site itself.
The forest hasn't recovered much but tire lookout station is back up and running. The U.S. Forest Service rents it out as a remote vacation cabin of sorts when fire danger is low, and the locked gate suggested they either had tenants or their were active lookouts on duty.
I suspect it was the latter. The fog we had lower down the mountain was replaced up here by a thick blanket of smoke from distant unrelated fires burning deeper in the interior of the state. It gave the old burn we were driving through the creepy feel of an active hot zone, even though it wasn't. After a good look around we trundled back down the track to the main spur and headed on to Game Lake.
The road went on for another 15 miles, but we knew from what the map was telling us that this stretch dead-ends near the lake.
In the end we never saw any water. The track to the lake itself turned into a hiking trail and dad wasn't up for a walk. So we turned around the way we had come and headed back toward pavement, 35 miles away.
But that didn't matter. For us it was a perfect day. We both like poking around on unfamiliar back roads just to see what the nearby backcountry is like. And the navigation system in the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe was able to pinpoint our location and let us get on with it like no paper map ever could.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 3,745 miles