All posts by annessky

KAT Exploration Photos

A few photos from our trip last weekend. I’ll get around to writing something in a few days.

See you on the trail!

KyTopo: Kentucky’s New Topographic Map Series

For many decades, the USGS Topographic Quadrangle Map series was “THE” base for anything mapping related. A wide array of Federal programs required that they be utilized for submittals, surveyors included them on plats as inset maps, and Kentucky-specific statutes relied on them for defining things like “blue line” streams. The “topo” or “quad” maps framed our perception of the nation’s surface and the planimetric features situated upon it.

In the mid 90s, USGS brought the topographic map into the digital age by releasing their Digital Raster Graphics (DRG) product. Finally, the basemap we’d relied on for ages was now in the background on our massive CRT monitors. For better or worse, our relationship to the maps was strengthened as we became mesmerized by the slow rendering raster image on our screens. GIS users quickly realized that the vector data they’d been creating and maintaining for years didn’t always line up perfectly with the DRGs. As a result, agencies quickly scrambled to adjust their points, lines, and polygons to the almighty map that we held as gospel. You know . . . they were made by USGS so they had to be correct!

USGS Kentucky DRG Image
USGS Kentucky DRG Image

Flash forward to December of 2011 when the Kentucky Aerial Photography and Elevation Program (KYAPED), or KyFromAbove effort, became a reality. With a focus on acquiring state-of-the-art LiDAR data and full-color, high resolution aerial photography, KyFromAbove promised a new view of the Commonwealth’s surface with a level of detail and clarity that had never been imagined. Since that time, and not surprisingly, one of the primary requests made by stakeholders in the GIS Community has been new LiDAR-derived contour lines.

In early 2017, as the impending reality of a statewide elevation model came into focus, the Kentucky Division of Geographic Information (DGI) began to investigate the creation of a statewide contour dataset and associated cartographic products and web services. Consultation with the Commonwealth’s GIS gurus prompted us to think outside of the box. Sometimes, bending the rules is necessary, even though it may lead to more complex processes and require more resources.

Although it was painful at times, going through this process was fruitful in that the KyTopo Map Series was conceived. The idea was to create a cartographic product that could be printed and shared as a cached web mapping service. Then, the primary derivative datasets (i.e. contours, hillshade, spot elevations, . . .) would be made available for download and published to the KyGeoNet. Two statewide contour datasets are slated for creation. One will be somewhat aligned with the USGS contour intervals in Kentucky (10’, 20, & 40’) and another statewide set of 5’ contours will leverage scale threshold settings and group layer functionality to adjust dynamically to the viewer’s map scale.

The KyTopo map series will be Kentucky-specific in several ways. First, an entirely new set of landscape-oriented quadrangle tiles have been developed. These new tiles align with our 5k tiling scheme and are in Kentucky’s Single Zone coordinate system rather than the traditional USGS UTM-based maps. The map area is exactly 30” wide (60,000’) by 20” tall (40,000’) and fits nicely on a standard Arch D (24” x 36”) printed page. The typical 1:24,000 (1” – 2000’) scale has been maintained and there are only 549 tiles as opposed to the 779 tiles offered by USGS. Importantly, the new tiles have square corners unlike the UTM version!

KyTopo Page Layout
KyTopo Page Layout

Next on the agenda was the task of coming up with names for the new map tiles. In many instances, the names from the old USGS quads were directly adopted. However, there were many cases where it just didn’t make sense. DGI staff studied the USGS methodology used to name its maps many years ago and employed that approach. Basically, the most prominent feature within a given tile was used for the name. For example, the largest city or the most centrally located place name (GNIS) was selected. In undeveloped areas, State Parks, State Forests, and natural features (i.e. streams, ridges, lakes, . . .) were used for naming the tile they dominated.

After pondering contour interval and index values, the standard USGS 10’, 20’ and 40’ intervals were embraced along with their associated 40’, 100’ and 200’ indices. Having these different interval levels is necessary due to great variance in elevation change as you move from east to west across the Commonwealth. Generally, the KyTopo intervals by tile, align fairly well with their USGS counterpart.

20’ Interval & 100’ Index
20’ Interval & 100’ Index

Weeks were spent gathering authoritative data for the project and fine tuning the map layout and symbology. Lots of thought was put into which layers should be included and which should be cast aside. As previously noted, all of the data is available in the public domain and much of it has been sourced directly from Kentucky State Government and a variety of Federal agencies. In fact, over 75% of the layers were already published to the KyGeoNet. It is anticipated that the maps will be updated on an annual basis so changes in the transportation network, forest cover, boundaries and other features can be updated accordingly.

The production hardware environment for the KyTopo project consists of one VMware-based 64-bit virtual server with 4 cores, 64GB of RAM, and 2TB of fiber-attached storage running Windows Server 2012 R2. Esri’s ArcGIS Desktop 10.3.1 and its Data Driven Pages functionality are the primary tools utilized for cartographic production. Additionally, Esri’s Production Mapping extension has proven useful in terms of handling layout constraints and customized map elements.

The map output process is done through a series of Python scripts that take advantage of the 64-bit background processing option within ArcGIS. Using this approach, the time taken to output each map was reduced by 10-15 minutes per map. Initially, draft maps were output to 300dpi PNG files for proofing and review. Feedback during this proofing process was used to further refine various aspects of the map series. Two types of georeferenced maps will be produced for distribution: collared and un-collared. The collared version will include all layout elements (i.e. legend, inset maps, title, . . . ) whereas the un-collared ones will be limited to the area within the data frame.

KyTopo Draft Map
KyTopo Draft Map

Significant effort was put into establishing an appropriate symbol set for this map series, and DGI staff consulted the USGS Topographic Map Symbols publication for guidance. Some of its symbols were adopted while others were adjusted to enhance readability. Once a symbol was selected, it was added to the KyTopo.style library using the ArcGIS Style Manager. This tool has proven to be an effective and efficient way to manage symbology for the production effort.

ArcGIS Style Manager
ArcGIS Style Manager

Typography, or cartographic labeling, is another aspect of this process that has received a tremendous amount of attention. Feature labels, titles, legends and notes are just some of the text-based components of a cartographic product. Using the correct typeface for each element is critical when compiling a quality map. Discounting the importance of typography during cartographic production can lead to a map that is difficult to interpret or one that draws the user’s attention away from the subject. Per the principles of thematic map design, serif typefaces were used for the map title, layout elements such as graticule labels, and hydrographic features.  Road shields, road names, elevation features, and some selected layout elements employ sans serif typefaces. Feature label placement was handled by enabling Maplex functionality in the map document. Hours were devoted to fine tuning the Maplex labeling rules so more prominent features were placed prior to those of less importance.

Every great map series includes both index and inset maps so users can see the location of each map tile in context. The KyTopo index map is situated in the upper right corner of the layout and highlights the given map tile on a statewide view. The inset map has been positioned below the legend and shows the eight tiles that surround each map. Including both of these components on the map has proven to be quite helpful. Using separate data frames for each, in conjunction with Data Driven Pages functionality, made this an automatable task.

KyTopo Index Map
KyTopo Index Map

One of the most frustrating layout elements to deal with was the legend. ArcGIS has some nice legend generation tools but DGI was unable to fully utilize its output. The legend created with the automated tools just didn’t produce the most desirable results. For example, the symbol for spot elevations would appear in the legend but the actual elevation value would not be placed beside it. Reluctantly, a partially manual process that uses Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator was put into place. It is a bit cumbersome, but the resulting legend is much nicer and better reflects the features within the map series.

KyTopo Draft Legend
KyTopo Draft Legend

At the time of the writing of this article, draft maps for KyTopo have only been generated for 394 of the 549 tiles. This is being driven by the current availability of LiDAR data for the Commonwealth. Statewide LiDAR coverage should be a reality by the end of 2017. Once that has been completed, contours will be generated for the remaining tiles and final map production will commence. It is planned that the map products and ancillary data elements will be made available on the KyGeoNet by Spring of 2018.

KyTopo Status Map
KyTopo Status Map

Stay tuned for final release dates and updated product specifications!

See you on the trail!

The Tour of Idaho: Initial Bike Prep for 2018

In my opinion, bike preparation must be the easiest part of getting ready for the Tour of Idaho. Lots of other folks have done their homework and shared their successes accordingly. Martin has some invaluable info on his site and other finishers have offered their thoughts and guidance as well. Its my feeling that mental and physical readiness are more difficult to achieve and for some, navigation will be a big issue.

I’m not really worried about the navigation aspect (I’m a Cartographer!) and physically, I’ll likely be just fine. Basically, it is the mental part that freaks me out more than anything! I waiver between being very excited and down right terrified on a weekly basis. Randy and Jeff have both reassured me that everything will be just fine but my roller coaster ride of emotions has continued.

With all that being said, I’ll jump into what I’ve done to the WR450 thus far. I’ve studied pictures of Randy’s bike and have watched the Jimmy Lewis video on multiple occasions. Their setups are very similar and being as though they both finished, I suspect their path of prep is a good one to follow. And the rundown on Martin’s site of essential items is not be ignored.

New Exhaust, LED Tail Light & License Plate Holder
New Exhaust, LED Tail Light & License Plate Holder

As with all my bikes, I immediately installed an FMF Q exhaust. I don’t need or want any additional power but I do love a quiet bike. Loud motorcycles piss me off. The license plate holder (yes, I got it plated here in Kentucky) is mounted to a Baja Designs LED Dual Sport conversion tail light. They make good stuff. Tucked behind the side panel is the GYTR ECU. I don’t have the tuner yet, but that is forthcoming.

The Tour of Idaho has a day where no gas is available. If I remember correctly, there was a 230 mile stretch during the later days of the tour this year. My options were the 3-gallon IMS or the 4.1-gallon Safari tanks.The Safari is quite pricey but I felt the extra 1.1 gallons of capacity would be crucial. I also plan to carry a 1-gallon Giant Loop Gas bag. If that doesn’t cover it I can get some from Jeff’s 6-gallon tanker!

Safari Gas Tank
Safari Gas Tank

Mounting the tank was easy, however the wiring harness would not reach the fuel pump. The quality of the tank, and the hardware that came with it, are great, but the lack of a harness “extension” was not cool. I was able to get all the stuff I needed to fashion an extension from CycleTerminal.com. They had the exact connectors that Yamaha uses so it was fairly easy to create once I had all the components in-hand. Having the correct crimping tool and the ability to solder small components was helpful.

My next focus was the seat. Jeff recommended Fisher Seats. I’d never heard of them. He said Harvey used them too. I reached out to Harvey and evidently he has 4 or 5 them. I trust both of these guys so I shipped my seat to Eagle, Idaho so they could work their magic. You have to fill out a form for them before they’ll do the work and it’s almost like filling out a form at the Doctor’s office! When the seat got back to the house, I was shocked at the width. But, after riding it I can see that it will likely work well. The workmanship is outstanding! Honda style vinyl on the top (I don’t like a grippy seat), carbon-fiber style vinyl on the sides, and Yamaha blue stitching make for an awesome looking seat.

Fisher Seat & Safari Tank
Fisher Seat & Safari Tank

There is also one upgrade that is “invisible” but has made a big difference. I’d only ridden the thing once when I noticed the overly soft forks. It would dive going down hills and during braking. Not good. I just happened to have a set of KYB SSS forks in the garage from a YZ250. The spring rate in the YZ forks is a bit firmer and the valving is different two. I rode the bike last weekend with the YZ forks  and was very pleased with that upgrade. They are staying on the bike.

Some smaller items are the Double Take Mirror and a Baja Designs combination switch that combines a Hi/Lo/Off for the headlight and a kill switch. I have horn but its not wired up yet but I did put on my standard full-waffle Scott grips. GYTR-radiator braces provide some protection for the radiators and a TM Designworks skid plate protects the frame and engine. The skid plate wasn’t an exact fit. It was like it was “sprung” outward a bit. A lift stand, some C-clamps, and a drill were needed to get it into place. Hopefully, it will retain that shape when I take it off. If not, I’m getting one from Flatland Racing.

Double Take Mirror
Double Take Mirror

There was a lightly used Scott’s steering damper in the garage, as well as the top handlebar mount. Once I got a Steering Stabilizer Tower I was in business. I feel it’s an essential upgrade for any off-road rider. Can’t imagine owning a bike and not putting one on it.

Below is a listing of the items I’ve installed thus far. The list is still growing but not as quickly now. A tank bag, front fender bag, saddle bags and so forth are the next items to be acquired. I’m good on gear, it’s almost all Klim. It is the best gear I’ve ever purchased in terms of durability. Period. Plus they use topo lines as a design element. Any cartographer would be a sucker for that stuff!

Yamaha GYTR Competition Programmable ECU
Baja Designs Dual Sport Taillight
Baja Designs License Plate Holder
Solid Rear Rotor
Cycra Yamaha ProBend Hand Guards
Scott Full Waffle Grips
FMF Q4 Hex Exhaust
YZ250 KYB SSS Forks
Yamaha GYTR Radiator Braces
Universal 12 Volt Horn (Black 2.25”)
Mirror Mount for Clutch Perch
Safari Gas Tank
Double Take Enduro Mirror & Mount
TM Designworks Skidplate (Blue)
Scotts Performance Steering Stabilizer Tower
Power Tender Battery Charger
Power Tender USB Adaptor
Fisher Custom Seat
DID 520 X-Ring Chain
Sunstar Front Sprocket (14)
Sunstar Steel Rear Sprocket (52)

Additional bike upgrades, GPS and navigation, and all other preparation efforts will be detailed in coming blog posts. I realize it is  11 months away, but I can’t help but plan. Just my nature.

See you on the trail!

The Tour of Idaho: Getting Ready for 2018

Early this year, I was invited to do the “Tour of Idaho” in 2018 by Randy Block. If you don’t know what “The Tour” is all about go check out Martin Harkworth’s website, motorcyclejazz.com. One can find all the details right there in a nice little package.  Martin is the Executive Director of the BlueRibbon Coalition (if you’re not a member you should be) and has spent years fine tuning the Tour for everyone’s enjoyment. To sum it up, the tour is a +/-1,500 mile off road  adventure that begins at the Utah border and traverses Idaho to a mountaintop just a few miles from the Canadian Border.

Tour of Idaho Overview Map
Tour of Idaho Overview Map

I’d found Martin’s site many years ago and had perused it from time to time as it was in my bookmarks. I’d come back to it periodically, but mainly to view the pictures from Day 3 & 4 as each summer I’d ride in that area of Central Idaho. Additionally, I’d seen the TOI recount that was done by “Big Dog” several years. It’s worth reading as well.

Randy is the Eastern Representative for the BlueRibbon Coalition and lives just across the river from Kentucky in Indiana. I met Randy in early 2017 through a mutual interest in working with the USFS in Kentucky. He and his friend Roger completed the Tour of Idaho in 2015 right after Jimmy Lewis. Interestingly, I’d been riding in Central Idaho in 2015 with Will Lyons and he said that after we left he was going to film Jimmy Lewis doing the Tour of Idaho. Small world.

By the way, Will’s work on the video capture and production is phenomenal. If you want the real scoop on what the Tour is all about, you need to watch all 45+ minutes of it! Check it out here.

Randy had noted that Jeff Stoess also had an interest in doing the Tour. Thus, it only made sense for me to team up with him. Jeff is an incredible rider with lots of long-distance adventure riding and dual sport experience. Just the kind of rider you want to be teamed up with!

This was all coming together nicely but I really didn’t have a bike that was appropriate for that sort of undertaking. From what I could tell, most everyone that had finished the tour was on a large-displacement, street legal, four-stroke, dirt bike. My little YZ250s weren’t up for the task. Can you imagine how much premix I’d have to carry?!

Over the next 3 weeks or so I pondered about what bike to get. For me, a Yamaha WR450F came to mind first as I try to support my local economy and you can’t find an orange bike at JVM Motorsports. During this short 3 week period I’d discussed my intentions with several fellow riders. I’d asked Mark Edwards specifically if the WR450F subframe was up to the task of supporting some sort of saddle bag system. So he was aware of what I was thinking.

Mid-morning one day at work I get a text from Mark with a photo of a VERY clean 2015 WR450F. He said it had less than 100 miles on it. It had been traded in at JVM on a street bike. Within 48 hours it was in my garage. Step one. Done. Got a bike for the tour.

2015 Yamaha WR450F
2015 Yamaha WR450F

Mark was right. It only had 92 miles on it. The bike had never really been dirty at all. Factory-applied oil was still on the bright yellow and debris-free air filter.  Wow. Deals like that don’t appear very often.  Knowing that I had over a year to get it ready, I pushed it into the garage where it began to gather dust.

For the next several weeks it just sat there. I did get some nice Cycra ProBend hand guards for it, put a solid rotor on the rear wheel, and geared it down a bit. Otherwise, it got no attention. I didn’t even load it up for a ride.

Nice Hand Guards!
Nice Hand Guards!

As usual, we went out west in July. Visited Gary and Judi in the Black Hills, stopped by to see Keith in Billings, and made our way up to Glacier National Park for a few wonderful days! Afterwards we headed down to the Sawtooth Valley in Central Idaho for a couple weeks. Chip was in Stanley but unfortunately had a bad knee. My aim was to start bike prep for the Tour upon my return to the Bluegrass state. So the WR just sat there and gathered a nice thick layer of garage dust. Waiting for a little attention . . .

More to come on this topic in my next installment. This is just one of many. Stay Tuned!

See you on the trail!

Renfro Valley Dual Sport – 2017 Edition

Hat’s off to the organizer’s of the 2017 Renfro Valley Dual Sport once again! I’ve only done this three years now, and each time, I’ve been amazed at how well they mark the route. If you pay attention, you could probably do the whole thing without a roll chart. It’s marked that well. The sign-up process is a breeze and flows quite smoothly. Make sure to get it on your calendar when they announce the 2018 dates. Typically, it is held the first weekend in May.

Day 1

I’d been talking up the dual sport all year long with some guys I normally ride with. Some had never done it before, and others hadn’t done it for many years. I was actually kinda worried that the group would be too big, but it all worked out just fine. In the end, there were five of us riding together on Saturday. Greg, Bo, Kyle, Travis and I all headed out on the route just before 9am. Ideally, 8:45am would have been a bit better but this crew is fairly quick and I didn’t expect us to have to wait very long on anyone.

The Crew

Just like in 2016, there was a fairly strong possibility of rain on Saturday. Argh! I’ve never ridden the event when it was even somewhat dry. Well the forecast gods made a good call as it started coming down about an hour or so into the route. Luckily, I’d suited up in my Klim Traverse jacket with the d3o pads in the shoulders and elbows. This setup over my regular riding layers was the ticket. The vent zippers on the Traverse made it easy adjust to the conditions they changed throughout the day.

What are you looking at?
What are you looking at?

We’d hit all of the Green Arrow (Hero) sections that morning and folks were getting stuck all over the place. None of the crew had any issues with the hills or ruts and we tractored up, over, and around everyone and made good time as well. About 3 miles from lunch, we came out onto a paved road. It was in the mid-40’s, pouring down rain, and we were all ready for some shelter and food. Especially Bo. Evidently he was in dire need of nourishment. Everyone was in much better spirits after a good lunch and some “so-so” hot coffee.

The Hungry Man!
The Hungry Man!

They had gas for sale at the Sand Gap Community Center where we had lunch for $4/gallon. A bit steep in price, but it meant you didn’t have to head over to the store and wait in line behind 50 bikes to get gas. The guys on smokers mixed their gas accordingly and shook it up in the supplied milk jugs. I’ll do that again next year!

Travis at Lunch
Travis at Lunch

The rain was subsiding a bit as we pulled out for the second half of the day. There was some great riding ahead but it was going to be wet and sloppy for sure. Trail conditions were deteriorating quickly as the crew moved forward. Some sections had water running down the ruts in the trails. When we got to the 2nd afternoon Hero section, Greg indicated that the potato salad at lunch was not working out very well. I think he was getting a little green. Not good, as we had over 40 miles left to go. He and Bo skipped that Hero section and promised to meet us at the junction.

The Court Jester
The Court Jester

In the end, Bo and Greg had to wait over 30 minutes for us. It was not good. This was the only section where I had to hit a hill twice. Travis, Kyle and I were challenged for sure! Tiring to say the least. Things were just plain sloppy and it was hard to keep forward motion at times. For the first time ever, my “WR250” got a little warm. I never remember this happening to the bike before. We stopped for about 4-5 minutes so it could cool off. Not good. Bo and Greg had made a good call not running that section.

Sloppy Conditions
Sloppy Conditions – But the Captain America Boots are Clean!

The next Hero section was the cool stuff at Big Hill. I rode that last year (in the rain) and it was OK, but this year it was wetter. Kyle was pumped to try it so we let him head his own way. I knew of one really steep downhill that I just wasn’t willing to tackle in these conditions. It just wasn’t wise, at least not for me. At this point we were less than 30 miles from the staging area and the rain was still coming down but you could see the clearing skies in the distance.

The Hungry Man!
The Hungry Man!

In a short while, we popped out onto the pavement and there was no precipitation. Excellent! A combination of pavement, gravel, quad trails, and jeep roads lead us to the final section of cool single track. Very, very nice to say the least. A wonderful way to wrap up the day. It flowed well and now that it wasn’t pouring, it was actually enjoyable! We came off the single track and dropped onto an old road that descended down a creek bed back to the final section of pavement. I’d say 4 miles later, and we were back at the staging area. It was nice to start loading up without the rain as an annoyance. Special thanks to Greg for being our leader for the day. I greatly appreciated not having to ride in the front for a change.

Our Fearless Leader!
Our Fearless Leader!

Bo, Kyle and Travis had other obligations so they headed back north. Charlie came by and said his shoulders were hammered from fighting the little Husky he was riding so he pointed his van northward to Indy. With the mass exodus underway, the plan was to seek out Jeff and John and see if we could tag along on Sunday.

Charlie in the Ky Woods
Charlie in the Ky Woods

Greg and I stayed for the evening. We got a good meal there in Mt. Vernon and went to our hotels to get some rest and recover for the following day. The forecast for Sunday promised to be awesome, cool in the morning with a high around 61 degrees and plenty of sunshine. Good deal!

Day 2

Onward! Woke up to a light coating of frost on Sunday morning with clear skies. Things were damp, no doubt about it, but at least the sun was shining. I met Greg at the staging area around 7:30am. He’d had a rough time with leg cramps that evening and throughout the night. I’ve dealt with that before and it is not fun. Makes me cringe to just think about it. Wisely, he headed north as well, not wanting to chance getting 40 miles in and have to deal with the leg cramps. Plus, he had a 5+ hour drive ahead of him. Smart decision.

So I got in touch with Jeff and John and they were fine with me tagging along. Their friend Justin was there too. He was a good rider for someone that had only been on a bike for 3 seasons. Being young and tough benefited him as well. He kept up a good pace and dealt with most obstacles very well.

John pulled up in his Sprinter beside the MotoVan and everyone got their gear on and bikes ready. A group of four is a good size for this type of outing. The first part of the day was a bit too much pavement for me but as soon as we turned onto some natural terrain I got really interested. The lack of precipitation made it much easier to take in the surroundings. Mountain laurel were in full bloom and the  ferns were popping out of the forest floor. Sandstone rocks and the associate reddish dirt were prevalent at certain elevations on the route. Neat stuff!

Unfortunately we encountered lots of bottlenecks on the route that morning. Some of the more challenging hills were making it tough on many of the riders. Luckily, our little crew was able to get around these sections with little effort and kept a great pace.

There was one particular Hero section that I really enjoyed. It traversed a hillside with sandstone cliffs towering on the ridge above. Evidently, this is part of the “Sand Springs” area where Travis rides frequently. Jeff said that he’d ridden there with Travis the year before. Some of that section had burned last fall and that made it easy to see through the trees. The steep hills and off-camber trail layout made it fun to navigate.

Just before lunch we went under I-75 and ended up in “downtown” Livingston, Kentucky at the local fire station. They were grilling hot dogs and hamburgers and had all the fixins’ laid out to embellish them accordingly. Just like, Saturday, the fire fighters had gas available for purchase, but this time for $3 per gallon. Good deal. We all gassed up after eating and headed back out for some more fun.

We saw a couple groups that were bypassing the main route and taking the road back to the staging area. Boy they really missed some awesome riding. The Hero sections after lunch on Sunday were some of the best we encountered all weekend. So glad I stayed for Sunday this year!

Jeff, John, & Justin checking out the Sandstone
Jeff, John, & Justin checking out the Sandstone

My favorite landscape feature of the whole event was a sandstone outcropping that had eroded into a series of passages that were 30′-50′ deep. As we approach this area, I noted what looked like pea gravel on the trail. My first thought was, “How in the world did they haul this pea gravel into here?” Hmmmm. When the sandstone became visible you could literally see the little pieces of gravel embedded in the geologic structure. These little pieces had eroded away and washed down the hillside, thus the appearance that someone had spread the gravel on the trail.

The Route
The Route

Not too far on down the trail from the sandstone outcroppings we came upon an overlook. It wasn’t a natural overlook, but rather a sheer drop off into what was an old mine. You could see the large shafts from the edge and the old railway that serviced the mine many years ago.

Jeff & John at the Mine Overlook
Jeff & John at the Mine Overlook

When we reached the end of that trail and hit the gravel road, Jeff turned right off the route and we headed down to the mine shaft entrances. There you could see 3-shafts and it was then obvious that the railway actually went through the mountain via a tunnel that we’d just ridden over a few minutes beforehand. Justin and I followed Jeff and John into the mine shafts. Kinda eery.

In The Mine
In The Mine

I didn’t think about it at the time, but what if the vibration caused by our bike engines had made pieces of the roof come down? Not good. I might not go in there again. I’ll just wait outside and take pictures!

The route had one more Hero section and then some old road beds, quad trail, gravel and so forth before the end of day. We saw a dual set of train tunnels a few miles before the end and actually road down the gravel beside a railroad bed for about 1/2 mile. The sun was still shining, everyone’s bikes were in good working order, and no one got injured! A great way to end the day.

If it isn’t obvious, this is now permanently on my “To Do” riding list for every year. I certainly wished that I knew about this event many years ago. I recall folks not coming to KORHS races because they didn’t want to miss the dual sport. Now I understand! Don’t miss it next year!

See you on the trail!

KyMotoVan Travel Report

It was about this time last year when we decided to get either a 3/4-ton Diesel truck or a Sprinter. I didn’t know much about them then, but by September we were test driving one and by October a brand new 4×4 Sprinter was in our driveway.

Side View
Side View

One of the primary reasons for the Sprinter purchase is that it really suited our type of traveling. It secures the load (motorcycles and sewing machines), it is NOT a trailer (which I hate to tow), and it is one awesome and comfortable ride! Our recent westward trip confirmed all of this and taught us several things about the van.

I am honestly surprised at how comfortable the Sprinter is from a driving perspective. The seating position is great for long periods of time, it has every adjustment you can imagine, and the seat foam is firm but comfortable and provides excellent support. Power seats would be nice but the adjustability is still there.

KyMotoVan
KyMotoVan

Seems like so many folks get a Sprinter and immediately get upset at how it rides. Well think about it . . . it was designed to have a load. One motorcycle and associated riding gear makes a noticeable difference but having a full traveling load makes it ride like a dream! Once again I was pleasantly surprised with this big monster and how it behaved on the interstate. Cruising along at 75mph to 80mph was not a problem and the steep inclines were clobbered by the little turbo-charged V6. It would just pull and pull with no abandon!

A Full Travel Load
A Full Travel Load

Kim learned that it was easy to just stand up and walk to the back and sit on that bench seat. She could stretch out, get something from the cooler, our luggage or just enjoy a different view with no great effort. The spaciousness is second to none! Something about the additional space that makes traveling less tiring. I guess you don’t feel quite as confined as you’d be in a car or truck.

When traveling in our trucks, the whole back seat area would be crammed full of stuff. There was barely enough room and everything was wedged into place making it hard to get to things in the middle or on the bottom. We “kinda” had a system but nothing was efficient about it at all. With the Sprinter, all of our luggage, Kim’s sewing machine, and my gear bag all fit between the rear bench seat and the partition. Plenty of room. Very nice for a change!

Luggage Loaded with Room to Spare!
Luggage Loaded with Room to Spare!

One negative point regarding the Sprinter is its sheer size and how that impacts driving in strong winds. It does have the new Cross Wind Assist but nothing can prepare you for driving across Wyoming! Going out, it was hitting us in the front and on the driver’s side. I’d say there was about 5 hours of driving, where both hands needed to be on the wheel. Basically, you just didn’t know when it would hit, so you had to be ready with a dual-handed grip on the wheel. On the return trip we encountered similar conditions but it was not as long in duration.

We took the big rig on several Forest Service roads and it did very well. Our trip up towards Basin Butte Lookout was a good climb with several newly graded water bars to test the clearance. I started out in 2WD to see how it would do and in the end we never needed 4WD. The BFGs and manual shifting made it very easy. Really learned to love the manual shifting option on those dirt roads. I can think of many situations where it will be an advantage.

KyMotoVan at a Trailhead on the Basin Butte FS Road
KyMotoVan at a Trailhead on the Basin Butte FS Road

Most would think that fuel economy would be terrible in such a large, high-profile vehicle. Well, I’m very pleased! I’d been getting 13.8mpg -17.6mpg around the house which mainly included trips to Casey County to ride and maybe once every two weeks I’d drive it to work. On the trip, the worst I got was 14.6mpg and that was during the windy portion of Wyoming on the way out. Interestingly enough, the best I got on the way home was 18.9mpg and that was when the wind was working in our favor. Plus, there is a lot more downhill driving on the way back! There was no way I could achieve this type of fuel mileage in a 1/2 or 3/4 ton pickup truck. Especially if there was some type of trailer involved!

You know how folks that ride motorcycles on the street always do that “low wave” at each other when the pass on the roadways. Well for some reason, Sprinter folks seem to be that way too. I don’t know how many times we’d see someone approaching in their Sprinter and they’d be waving with enthusiasm. Didn’t see that one coming!

KyMotoVan near Craters of the Moon
KyMotoVan near Craters of the Moon

One evening I was standing out on the deck enjoying the view and a couple pulled up and parked out front. They jumped out of their Honda Element and ran towards the Sprinter. The guy got down on his hands and knees to look at the drivetrain and his better-half was just taking pictures like crazy. He jumps up and says, “It is a 4×4!” and she pointed at the emblem on the rear door. I never said a word and just took it all in. They were pumped they’d seen a 4×4 Sprinter to say the least! Gotta love it!

A couple weeks before the trip I was all torn up about the “biodiesel” availability between here and Stanley. I researched all sorts of things and studied Google Maps for appropriate fueling locations. Geez . . . that was all just a waste of time. We had no problems at all finding B5 or better . . . non-issue. I will know next time . . . having the diesel rotopax containers as a backup is still a good idea though.

Rotopax Diesel Containers
Rotopax Diesel Containers

One more note. The BF Goodrich KO2 tires are simply awesome. The ride is great, they did wonderfully on the forest service roads, there is no doubt they improve the look of the vehicle, and they are yet to show any wear after over 8,000 miles! If you have 4×4 Sprinter get some and make sure that you MB Dealer does the install and balancing. If you don’t, they will wear out sooner and will not give you the wonderful ride that I’ve enjoyed.

BFGs on the KyMotoVan
BFGs on the KyMotoVan

Bottom line . . . we’re hooked. There are lots of other cool things about the Sprinter but I don’t have enough “free cycles” to commit at this time. If you have a Sprinter, then Congratulations . . . if you don’t . .  then maybe you should?!

See you on the trail!

Idaho Riding 2016 – #4

Day 4 of riding in Idaho was great as usual. Dwayne, Chip and I set out on the Little Casino trail around 9:30am or so. Dwayne hadn’t ridden this trail since the re-route they’d done 2-3 years ago. I’d only ridden it once when the trail followed the original route but honestly don’t remember much about it except that there were multiple creek crossings.

About three miles in we stopped and Dwayne said, “This new trail sucks!” He preferred the old route that had less exposed side hill, more creek crossings and a good climb to the top of the ridge. It is not a bad trail, its just not what he’d ridden for so many years. My understanding is that the new route gets you up to the ridge sooner and it never crosses the creek. This is all part of a strategy to keep trails further away from running water thus reducing erosion and sedimentation.

Next stop was a couple logs down across the trail. They weren’t huge so we stopped and cut them with the hand saw. This section of the trail had been cleared recently and whomever did the work certainly earned their wages. Dozens of logs were across the trail just a week or two beforehand and the sawdust piles were still visible from the fresh cuts.

Chip wanted to stop where there is a good view of Redfish Lake and the Sawtooth Range. With that in mind we made our way up the trail looking for the best place to get some photos. A little climb and a few corners later the perfect spot came into play. Ended up being a great view in all directions! Chip got the photos he wanted and I took a few as well.

Chip & Dwayne - Redfish Lake in the Background
Chip & Dwayne – Redfish Lake in the Background

When we headed up the trail from where we were in this photo, I rode Dwayne’s new Beta X-Trainer for about a mile. The bike was very nice for the type of riding that we do. It’s plushness and linear power delivery are perfect for mountain trail riding. Anyone with a short inseam should try the bike as well. Dwayne said it is 10% shorter in both directions which makes it very maneuverable. It is a 300cc engine and all you have to do is dial it back a bit and you’ll be reminded it is a big bore. Oh . . . and electric start too!

This view is along the way . . .
This view is along the way . . .

Onward to the “4-way” where the Casino Creek trails come together with the trail up to the Rough Creek Fire Tower and Martin Creek that leads down to the Warm Springs Meadow. On our way up the hill you pass the junction with Boundary Creek Trail. I went down that trail about a week ago at the recommendation of a local bicycle rider. He said that anyone who can climb up Boundary Creek without stopping on a bicycle has iron lungs and legs!

At this junction we saw a bicyclist coming up that trail. We stopped and talked with him for a few minutes. If I understood correctly, he only stopped once on the way up. One thing for sure . . . this guy was fit! We told him where we were headed and he indicated he’d be going the same way. I’d cleared several logs off the trail ahead the week before so I told him it was probably clear. He waited for us to depart and then headed up the hill.

Martin Creek Trail was the plan so we took the right hand turn and made our way down the trail. I’d forgotten how darn rocky it was. I’d been up it once and there is this one rock step up that is just plain tough. As we approached the Warm Springs Meadow, the downed timber became more and more frequent. Looked like a big game of pick up sticks. That is just the best way to describe it. Forward motion was slow at times throughout this mess.

Dwayne & Chip in the Pick Up Sticks
Dwayne & Chip in the Pick Up Sticks

So we are sitting here on the trail, taking a break after crossing 50+ downed logs, and the guy on the bicycle rolls up. Yep. he’d caught us. Very impressive to say the least. I know Martin Creek is almost all downhill but he’d climb another 750+ vertical feet since we’d seen him and made his way down the trail and across all those logs and over all the rocks. Wow!

We were just getting ready to leave so once again he let us go first. About 20 more log crossings and we rolled into Warm Springs Meadow. What an awesome place! For many years I’d eyed this valley on the aerial photography and topographic maps. It was 2013 before I actually made my way to the valley. Awesome views!

Dwayne on the Beta - Warm Springs Meadow
Dwayne on the Beta – Warm Springs Meadow

About 1/4 mile past the location shown in the photo above you take a right and head up the valley. It is really marshy in that area as beavers are active nearby. We carefully picked our way through the wet spot and as we were getting back on the main trail we saw the guy on the bicycle coming our way. Geez!

Warm Springs Meadow
Warm Springs Meadow

The next mile or so is flat and there were several downed trees along the way to the next creek crossing. This crossing has a “bridge” if you  want to call it that. Essentially, there are about two dozen logs laid lengthwise across the creek. No boards or anything on top. We came to a stop got off and carefully walked our bikes across.

On our heels once again was the guy on the bicycle. He was incredible. Chip told him it was all “downhill” just ahead and onto the Williams Creek Trail. Chip had forgotten there were two more small ridges to traverse before the final descent. Oh well, this guy was in the for the long haul.

Warm Springs Meadow Pano
Warm Springs Meadow Pano

Dwayne took off and I rode just behind his dust all the way to the Williams Creek trailhead just of ID75 near Obsidian. Chip rolled in about 3 minutes later and we took advantage of some shade offered by a pine near the trailhead sign. There were two vehicles parked there and within 8-10 minutes bicyclists arrived, loaded up and drove away. About 5 minutes after that, the bicyclist rolled right up to us. I was amazed! He’d climbed up and over those two ridges and cruised down Williams Creek with ease.

In the end, we learned he was from Washington State and was not acclimated to the high altitude as he lived at about 800 feet above mean sea level. His bicycle was a “Felt” and from what I figured the frame alone cost around $10K . . . yep, just the frame. He’d been “glamping” (his term) with his family at Redfish Lake.  He was impressed with how we got our bikes over all the downed logs but we were blown away with the fact that he’d been keeping up with us for nearly 30 miles!!

Before he pedaled down the road, he took some pictures of us and grabbed a selfie or two. It is about 6.5 miles of flat pavement to the turn off for Redfish Lake from the trailhead. I estimate that the loop he’d ridden was ~36 miles. Wow! Dwayne put it best when he described the guy as “sculpted” . . . you can probably get the picture.

We too made our way up the road and back to the turn off for Boundary Creek. I was looking forward to climbing the trail back up to Little Casino. A group of horses was coming down and we all got off the trail as best as we could. One horse was spooked by the whole thing and almost bucked off the rider. It was kinda scary. Didn’t like it that that happened.

I met a hiker half way up so I shut off my bike. She walked by, said hello and high-fived me! Wasn’t expecting that! The trail was clear up to the junction and all the way back down to the Casino Creeks Trailhead. Simply awesome single track compared to anything we have in Kentucky.

Dwayne had an iced downed watermelon in his cooler so Chip cut it up and we enjoyed it before loading the bikes. What a wonderful way to finish up another great day of riding in Idaho. No doubt I’m fortunate to ride with these guys!

It was good to shed my gear and I was certainly getting hungry. Jumped into the Sprinter and pointed it towards the hotel for a shower and dinner. Already thinking about the next riding adventure!

See you on the trail!

 

Kentucky’s Enterprise GIS Implementation – A Decennial Update

Background

A little over ten years ago an article entitled “GIS as a Utility: Kentucky’s Enterprise Implementation” appeared in Esri’s 2005 summer edition of ArcNews. The article provided an overview of Kentucky’s new Enterprise GIS implementation, discussed the challenges associated with making spatial data accessible in a networked environment, and highlighted how various agencies were beginning to leverage this new resource. It has been over a decade since that article’s publication, and the Commonwealth’s enterprise GIS has matured and become a critical component of business processes both within and outside State Government. This article outlines the efforts managed by the Kentucky Division of Geographic Information (DGI) that have made this implementation successful and sustainable throughout evolving technologies, tight budget cycles and changing policy directions.

The Keystone

One of the least desirable tasks in information technology is documentation. No one likes to document code, routine processes, or data for that matter. In the GIS world, creating “metadata” is the task that no one likes to see on their “to do” list but successful implementations require that it is completed on a layer-by-layer basis without exception. Like it or not, metadata is the keystone of Kentucky’s spatial data services. It has been tough at times to get agencies on this bandwagon, but once they’ve bought in, the value becomes more apparent. The policy states, “All spatial data resources shall have a complete metadata record in order to be included in the Commonwealth’s spatial data repository.” The existence of and strict adherence to this policy has had a positive impact on geospatial data integrity that carries on today.

Back in 2005, the Kentucky Geography Network (KyGeoNet) was based upon ArcIMS Metadata services, and there were less than 50 metadata records created by a half a dozen publishers. The whole concept of creating metadata was new and many just saw it as something else they had to do on top of everything else on their plate. For many GIS practitioners, it was a low priority until they realized that the Commonwealth’s spatial data repository would not grow if metadata was not created for the valuable resources scattered across the GIS community.

KyGeoNet Homepage
KyGeoNet Homepage

The value in making geospatial data accessible certainly outweighs the amount of effort required to complete a minimal metadata record and publish it to a repository. Essentially, this is a form of “cost avoidance” in that if users can find a resource, read the metadata to learn about its characteristics, and then download it for their use, they are less likely to call or e-mail with questions or requests. This becomes quite apparent once you’ve fielded 20+ calls about a given dataset and then realize that a published metadata record could have answered questions about the resource. Being asked the same question over and over again makes for grumpy GIS staff.

Fast forward to 2016 and there are now approximately 700 metadata records being actively managed by over two-dozen responsible publishers on what is known as the KyGeoPortal. The service is currently based upon a recent release of Esri’s open source product known as Geoportal Server. This solution includes the ability to search for and create metadata records associated with web mapping and image services, as well as downloadable datasets, static map images, standards documents and web mapping applications. It is a wonderful resource that is leveraged frequently by thousands of users on a monthly basis.

KyGeoPortal Search Page
KyGeoPortal Search Page

Average Monthly FTP Server Requests for 2016 (through July):
5.9 million requests/several thousand unique visitors

Enterprise Approach

As noted in the 2005 article, KyVector and KyRaster are the primary enterprise-based services that are accessible to the hundreds of ArcGIS Desktop and CAD users within Kentucky State Government. Each user is on the Wide Area Network (WAN) and enjoys fast, network-based access to these geospatial services hosted at the Commonwealth Computing Center in Frankfort, Kentucky. This level of service would not be possible without Commonwealth Office of Technology’s (COT) robust WAN and server infrastructure as the delivery mechanism.

Centralizing the data repository has reduced direct agency storage costs and eliminated the issue of outdated data residing on agency-based file servers. Agencies no longer have to expend resources on updating data that originates from external sources. All data is current, easily accessible, and includes associated metadata. This level of data availability and integrity promotes confidence in results when GIS technologies are utilized for inventory, planning, response, or business process decision support.

KyVector

KyVector, an ArcSDE-based server solution that runs in conjunction with Microsoft SQL Server is hosted on three separate physical boxes. One server (kysdewww) is dedicated to providing vector-based data to State Government agencies that host their own web mapping services and applications. Another server (kysdewan) is reserved for the hundreds of ArcGIS Desktop users on the WAN, while the third is used for staging and failover/outage scenarios. This proven configuration reduces contention for server resources and ensures that data delivery to users and applications is carried out in the most efficient and effective manner.

KyVector Layers in ArcMap
KyVector Layers in ArcMap

All data resources housed in KyVector have met the prerequisites of having a full metadata record and having been published to the KyGeoNet. In 2005, it was noted that 125 layers were in KyVector. Today, the number has more than doubled and stands at just over 300 layers. New layers are added periodically as they are created or if there is a need to share the resource across the enterprise.

Access to KyVector has been streamlined by using layerfiles that include connectivity properties, appropriate display scale thresholds, and suggested symbology settings. The organization, maintenance and distribution of the layerfiles is carried out by DGI. Users can start a new, or add to an existing, map document with ease by browsing a thematically organized folder of layerfiles.

Weekly data updates to KyVector, are fed from the agencies to the staging server then subsequently moved to production during the update procedure. Users access this resource with confidence knowing that it is the most current version available at any given time.

KyRaster

A decade ago, KyRaster was ArcSDE-based but newer technologies have prevailed. ArcGIS Image Server is now employed to provide users with access to raster-based data such as aerial photography, topographic maps, digital elevation models, and land cover. The primary benefit of ArcGIS Image Server over raster datasets stored in ArcSDE is the significant reduction in the time needed to process raster data so that it is accessible to end users. In the past, days or even weeks would be consumed just loading imagery into a raster dataset in ArcSDE. But now, with mosaic datasets and Image Server, we are able to get data out to the users in hours, or days at the very most.

KyRaster Layer in ArcMap
KyRaster Layer in ArcMap

Additionally, DGI’s raster storage footprint has been reduced by employing function chains within mosaic datasets. This functionality allows us to store the data once but serve it up in multiple projections, with different band combinations, or with special rendering options. For example, a function can be inserted into the chain of a digital elevation model (DEM) that allows it to be rendered as hillshade, shaded relief, or percent slope. The DEM is only stored once on disk, however the functions can be applied to each request on the fly.

As with KyVector, ArcGIS Desktop users connect to KyRaster using layerfiles that include connection properties, display scale thresholds, compression settings and custom rendering options. The performance of Image Server is on par with ArcSDE on the WAN, and those that aren’t on the State’s network have learned to change compression settings on the client-side to achieve better performance on slower networks. This approach has worked well in state field offices, at local governments, and by private sector users such as engineers, surveyors, and consultants.

Web Mapping Services

Both KyVector and KyRaster are the backbone of the Commonwealth’s publically accessible web mapping and image services. Dynamic and cached map services are hosted on kygisserver.ky.gov and provided in Web Mercator projection using ArcGIS Server. These services power hundreds of web mapping applications internal and external to State Government. The Commonwealth Base Map and the Commonwealth Street Base Map are the two primary cached services, but other statewide imagery and land cover layers have been cached as well.

The Commonwealth Base Map Cached Service
The Commonwealth Base Map Cached Service

The balance of the services are considered to be dynamic, as they pull data directly from KyVector to fulfill every single server request. Each time a user zooms in, zooms out, pans one direction or another, a request is made to the map server which in turn reaches out to KyVector for the data.

Average Monthly Map Server Requests for 2016 (through July):
9 million requests/several thousand unique visitors

Kentucky’s image and elevation services are hosted on kyraster.ky.gov in Kentucky Single Zone Projection using ArcGIS Server and the Image Server extension. Employees with ArcGIS Desktop in State Government are the primary users of this server, however there are a growing number of users outside the WAN. When ArcSDE was the server solution for imagery, only users on the WAN could gain access. Image Server now allows the Commonwealth to meet the needs of internal and external users with the same computing infrastructure yet still maintain a high level of performance and availability.

KyFromAbove Image Service Rendered Using an IR Function Chain
KyFromAbove Image Service Rendered Using an IR Function Chain

Average Monthly Image Server Requests for 2016 (through July):
7.5 million requests/several thousand unique visitors

KyGovMaps

Like many other users of geospatial technologies, DGI has incorporated ArcGIS Online (AGOL) into its solutions and workflows. AGOL is Esri’s scalable and secure software-as-a-service cloud-based mapping platform. It includes a rich collection of web mapping application templates, visualization and analytical tools, and ready-to-use data sources that make geospatial resources more accessible and user friendly. DGI’s organizational site on AGOL, KyGovMaps, showcases a wide variety of Kentucky-specific web maps, applications, and services. Data and maps that were once only usable by those with expensive GIS software are now available to most everyone. GIS isn’t just for propeller heads anymore!

KyGovMaps on AGOL
KyGovMaps on AGOL

A customized gallery page on the KyGeoNet makes it easy to locate featured web maps, mapping applications, and thematic galleries that interest a wide array of users. Lately, some of the most popular applications have been those in our collection of Story Maps. Recreational resources, imagery, historic landmarks, demographics, elevation data, and physiographic regions are a sampling of the topics covered using story map templates that we’ve customized.

Kentucky Weather Mapping Application
Kentucky Weather Mapping Application

All of the current web mapping applications hosted by DGI were built using a customizable Javascript-based template. These applications employ a responsive framework and thus can be used within any browser and on any platform. Find a trailhead at a State Park, check the weather, get the soil characteristics for where you are standing, or locate the closest place to put your boat in the water and do it using your desktop, tablet or phone!

Kentucky Bucket List Story Map
Kentucky Bucket List Story Map

The Next Decade

If the pattern continues, combined total server requests for the 2016 calendar year will easily exceed 250 million. This alone is a true testatment to the success of the Commonwealth’s Enterprise GIS implementation. The growth in adoption and usage of geospatial technologies during the past decade has been astounding, and Kentucky’s capabilities in this realm have kept up with the pace of advancement. It will be interesting to look back at this, and the preceding 2005 article, during the middle of the next decade to see where we stand. Live data feeds, UAV acquired imagery, and 3D visualization are just some of the new trends that will shape the makeup of the Kentucky’s Enterprise GIS down the line. Stay tuned!

Idaho Riding 2016 – #3

Day three turned out to be adventure! Chip and I went out for the day and started right where his RV was parked. The ride began with about 4 miles of asphalt heading out towards Stanley Lake. Another 3+ miles of two-track leads to a frequently used section of single track that traverses some awesome meadows where the views of the surrounding mountains are wonderful. We stopped about 6 miles in where the trail intersects with the Elk Meadow Trail. The photo below shows the view just beyond the trail signs. We have to cross that meadow.

Elk Meadow
Elk Meadow

I’ve only been across this “trail” four times now. Each “crossing” was memorable. The first year, the meadow was flooded with about 7″ to 9″ of water with thick reeds and grasses stretching as far as the eye can see. I was following someone that had been across before and magically we emerged at a 10′ wide running stream where there was a sand bar that made it easy to cross. After that, you turn left and head towards this tall wooden post way down the meadow where the crossing is easier. More than half of this 1+ mile crossing was through the flooded type area I described above. Sketchy.

The second year it was relatively dry and the crossing was not too bad at all. I had the GPS tracks so that made it easier to find the trail and the best crossing points. Year number three was an adventure for many reasons. Check out this video for a cool riding blooper captured on helmet camera in the meadow. Hats off to Philip for keeping the bike out the water!

This year was a challenge. The middle of the meadow was closer to 10″ to 12″ deep. I followed my tracks closely but it just kept getting deeper. We reached the point where the initial creek crossing was supposed to be easy, but that was far from the case. The sand bar was gone and a tall bank had been cut into the far side. (We found out later that beaver dams situated downstream had raised the water level in the meadow.)

Retreat! We turned around, backtracked to the edge of the meadow and started riding along the margins as best we could. Patches of willows, large sinkholes, and narrow but deep creek crossings were encountered. Our goal had been to find that tall pole where the second crossing was marked and finally it was within reach. Some quick searching revealed a place to cross that was easy and wouldn’t tear up the meadow or the opposing bank. Less than 20 yards beyond where we crossed, the tall pole highlighted the path forward.

A mile or so afterward, we were at the base of the mountains where the trail intersects with two others (see below). This was a good opportunity to take a quick break and regroup. I knew that the climb ahead promised to be the next challenge.

Trail Junction
Trail Junction

What we found on the way up was not fun. There were dozens of downed trees and some portions of the trail had deteriorated for a variety of reasons. Not good. At one point, I had to use the hand saw to cut a path so we could move forward. I should have taken my chainsaw on this ride. Bad move on my part.

With some effort, we reached the top of the climb. The last portion wasn’t steep but it sure was rocky. Momentum was the key! Elizabeth Lake is visible from this summit and a good view of the Sawtooth’s is just a few feet away through the white bark pines.

Elizabeth Lake
Elizabeth Lake

We paused for a while to enjoy the view and rest up a bit. What a cool place! I feel fortunate to ride on this great trail system with folks that appreciate it and know it well.

At the Summit - Elizabeth Lake is at my back.
At the Summit – Elizabeth Lake is at my back.

The next section of trail is notoriously rocky. Keeping a good rhythm is tough as there are places where you have to bulldog your bike through the boulders. Reprieves are few and far between until you reach the next trail junction. The scenery is nice and the wildflowers were on display, but concentration on the trail was important.

We forged straight ahead at the next intersection and made our way down Swamp Creek trail. Someone had cleared most of the logs on that route, however some quads had pushed there way up the trail about 2 miles farther than allowed. Irresponsible use of the trail will eventually lead to its closure. The trail ends at the highway where we found a way across the meadow and over to Cape Horn road. After about 3 miles of gravel, we reached the Valley Creek trailhead. There is a short quad section that leads to some single track or another Forest Service road.

We chose the single track! The Forest Service had worked on this trail last summer and it wasn’t too bad considering it burned 2 years ago. The setting is surreal. The ground is seared black as are the trees. Wildflowers are abundant on the hillsides and the creeks in the valley are very lush in comparison. Riding the trail with the trees was certainly better but we still have fun on this slow and steady climb up to Basin Butte road.

A view towards the White Cloud Mountains from Basin Butte Road
A view towards the White Cloud Mountains from Basin Butte Road

Chip and I took another quick break at Basin Butte road. The view above is just a few feet from the trail marker on the opposite side of the road. Afterwards, we coasted down this trail which leads back to the Basin Creek trail. This mostly downhill route is favored by mountain bikers. All was going well until we encountered some downed trees in an old burn area near the end. Getting around a couple of the root balls was not easy and going over was not an option!

Some more nice single track back led us to another Forest Service road and then back to where Chip’s RV was parked. Just under 50 miles once again! Kim was nearby at the RV Park with her friend Kathy so she came over as I loaded up and peeled off my gear. It was about 4:30 and I was ready for beer! Back to Stanley for a shower, some beer, and a good dinner.

Doing a loop like this is nearly impossible in Kentucky. There are few places left in the US where riding like this is an option. I plan to ride as much of it as I can before it is all gone!

See you on the trail!

Idaho Riding 2016 – #2

On my second day of riding, I was lucky to tag along with Bill and a friend of his from the Boise area. We went out on Basin Creek and up to Hindman Lake. There was a group of four riders there when we arrived so we took a break. Before we left another 3 riders showed up. As usual, I was the oddball in the group. All of the bikes were orange with the exception of one Husky (orange KTM) and there I was with my blue YZ/WR 250. Everyone else was from Idaho so the “Kentucky” plate on my bike stood out.

We left the lake and headed down the trail and over to the Valley Creek Trail. A short way down the trail, our group turned left (eastward) onto Prospect. Lots of deadfall was on the ground but Bill employed his saw and we made our way through the route. The first couple miles was bad but it got clearer as we moved towards the Basin Butte road.

After a short break we headed down Sunday Creek trail back towards Basin Creek. I hadn’t ridden Sunday Creek since the recent burn and it looks really bad in terms of erosion. The good part was the wide variety of wildflowers. There were more colors and shapes and sizes on that trail than any other that day. The purple lupine were shin deep and covered the blackened soil along the single track trail.

The end of Sunday Creek intersects with Basin Creek so we took that trail back to the trailhead where our vehicles were parked. Good timing. Bill had business in town and at the RV Park and I was looking forward to getting Smoke Prime Rib for dinner!

No pictures of this ride. I do have some GPS tracks as proof but nothing more!

See you on the trail!