I love fooling around with Google Earth. Not only is a great time-waster, but there’s also a ton of stuff you can do with it.

Unfortunately, importing your own GPS tracks was formerly limited to those users who purchased the $20 a year upgrade. At least until someone found a way around it.

Free GeoTools is a fantastic blog dedicated to doing awesome stuff with your GPS on-the-cheap, and they’ve got a write-up on a Windows freeware program called GPS Trackmaker. It lets you easily save your GPS tracks in Google Earth-friendly KML format, and once you get them into Google Earth you can email screen shots, do fly-throughs in 3-D, and take an automated, animated tour of the trail following your waypoints.

It’s all great, and it’s all free. Here’s a screen grab of the Matilija Creek trail I just did. You can see our off-trail scramble up that horrible mountain on the left:

GPS TrackMaker looks like a pretty powerful program, too. I’ll be fooling around with it this week to see if I can clean up all my tracks and make them Google Earth-friendly.Because if there’s a way to allow y’all to download animated tours of these hikes, I’m gonna do it.

Until then, though, there’s tons of great information on Free GeoTools if – like me – you’ve bought a GPS unit but still aren’t 100% sure how to use it.