Bringing Tech Outdoors

Yash (right with glasses) and his friends refurbishing the mile markers.
April 26, 2012 | 3:45pm
It’s a new kind of trail map. At Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, a young Eagle Scout has created a Quick Response (QR) system to give visitors the best information by using the common technological tool – a smart phone.

Eagle Scout Yash Huilgol, 16, developed the QR codes and a supporting website for hikers, bikers, equestrians and other visitors to use when exploring the preserve. The park is one of the first in the region to blend the physical and virtual worlds..

A QR code is the black and white square that is actually a barcode. By scanning the QR code with a smart phone you can see information on the phone’s screen.

“This is just the first step in creating a useful interactive website,” said Yash, who came up with the idea during one of his family’s regular visits to the canyon.

Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve offers 3,700 acres of open space including more than 10 miles of trails ideal for hiking and biking and an equestrian staging area off Black Mountain Road.  The property is managed by City and County of San Diego parks staff. 

The preserve also features an historic Adobe Ranch House built in 1823, which is a frequent setting for weddings and receptions. Built by the recipients of the first Mexican land grant in San Diego County, the house was enlarged in 1862, and the building and site now comprise a National Register Historic and Archaeological District. Yash’s website also includes a virtual tour of the Adobe Ranch House with highlights of the building and its historic relevance.

Yash’s Virtual Trail Guide gives the detailed information about the preserve in a QR code on each of the 24 mile markers, which have also been refurbished. Each QR code shows the distance between the markers, creek crossings and trailheads.

Yash’s ingenuity has been received with open arms. He was just recognized by the County as an Information Technology innovator.

“Yash’s innovative approach integrates technology and the outdoor experience which is an enhancement in service to our customers. The QR codes provide trail users with increased access to information about park amenities and trail maps,” said Brian Albright, Director of the County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation.  “It also helps to increase public safety on our trails.”

To give his project more visibility, Yash has given presentations to County departments, the Friends of the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve and other community groups.

It has taken the Eagle Scout and his friends months and dozens of hours to refurbish the trail markers and develop his project, but Yash is not done.

“I plan to continue volunteering my time to improve and enhance the project to make it more accessible and easier to use,” Yash said.