Google Earth is an explorer's best friend. It serves both as a means to scout out places to explore, and as a database of places you have found, things of interest, or places you want to check out in the future.
In areas where the resolution of the satellite photography is high enough, Google Earth is an excellent way to start scouting out a new area you'd like to explore. Wander down streets, look for sideroads, or scout places you've heard others mention.
There are some things to keep in mind when using Google Earth to scout new areas.
- The satellite images may be out of date. The building as it appears in the picture may not be as it appears now. In fact, it may not even be there at all anymore. Often, Google will note when the photo was taken at the bottom of the screen.
- If you look at parking lots of places nearby, and you see cars parked there, odds are the photos were taken during regular business hours. Use that as a clue by looking for parking areas that are empty.
- Pay attention to some of the more minor roads marked on Google Earth. Sometimes they are placed from historical information, and may not even be anything more than a cart track now. This is good hunting ground.
- Use the photos to look for potential problems such as close proximity of neighbours, police stations, etc.
- Use the photos to scout out a place to leave your vehicle while you explore a building on foot. Your vehicle is the most obvious clue to your presence, and can be your undoing.
- It is not always easy to discern obstacles like fence lines through the photos. Things that look easily accessible aren't always.
- Try to correlate your information with other sources, include Microsoft's Live Maps. It may give you better perspectives, or more up to date information to look at two sources.
Google Earth allows you to put placemarkers on the map anywhere you like. This is incredibly useful when you consider that it also stores the GPS coordinates with the placemarker. This makes a handy reference when you use the GPS in your vehicle to bring you to places of interest.
You can create folders and subfolders in which to put your placemarkers. For example, I like to start at the country level. I have a folder for each country. Inside, I have subfolders for each province or state. Inside those, I keep my actual placemarkers. I color code the icon used with each one. Red for places I have yet to explore, and green for those I've gotten to. Sometimes I use blue to indicate that I went and either couldn't get in, or conditions weren't right.
Finally, you can also store information, notes, and even hyperlinks, with your placemarkers. This can become an incredibly handy, fast and easy database for all of your explorations.