Category Archives: Mapping

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!

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!

Red Bird Crest Trail Ride Report (05-25-14)

Well for the first time, Philip tagged along with us to do the Red Bird Crest Trail. He’d ridden a couple portions of it back in 2007 but that was over by the Begley Trailhead and we only hit a few miles of it back then. He’d never done the entire 70+ mile loop.

The crew consisted of Bo, Jesse, Philip, and I. We had intentions of leaving the trailhead @ 10am but after getting our trail passes and so forth it was closer to 10:20 when we pulled onto the trail. This concerned me a bit but I knew that we’d have plenty of daylight if we kept moving and didn’t spend too much time at the store having lunch.

Getting Ready at the Peabody Trailhead
Getting Ready at the Peabody Trailhead

There had been a very windy storm a few days before and I’d heard that schools were closed down that way due to flooding and wind damage. Well I should have considered that before planning our trip. About 1 mile into the trail we came across some LARGE trees on the ground but they’d been recently cut and cleared from the trail. There was fresh sawdust on the ground so I figured the Forest Service had been working hard getting the trail opened up for the Holiday weekend. We made our way onward and each time we’d come to a downed tree it was obvious that someone had been busy clearing the trail.

We’ll that all came to an end just after the Sugar Creek trailhead. We fought our way under a large tree, climbed up the ridge and were greeted with some monster trees blocking the trail. Hmmm . . . maybe we should have ridden somewhere closer to home? Jesse had his hand saw but neither of us brought our little Stihls. Cutting these trees with the hand saw would take hours. So, we started lifting . . . the hard way.

The Hard Way
The Hard Way

So, reluctantly, we moved onward hoping we’d not find many more situations like that one. Things were “Ok” but not great. We didn’t have to do any more “team lifting” across logs but there were dozens of trips up or down the hill from the trail that were necessary to keep us moving forward. If all else failed, we’d get to the store and then ride the road back to the trailhead.

We finally made it to the store and it was about 2PM. If we could maintain the same pace we’d make it around the whole loop but I was still unsure. The owner of the store said that there had been lots of damage along KY66 and ridges above so things could get interesting as the crew pressed forward.

It was certainly good to have some lunch and re-hydrate. As we topped the bikes off with gas, a crew we’d passed early arrived at the store. They said our tracks gave them hope that they too could make it to the store. I chatted with them a bit and learned they were from Indy and were down for the entire weekend. A couple of them knew Trail Rider Charlie which was cool. Jesse took a photo of them at lunch and sent it to Charlie this morning. He said, “They are all too old for me to know them!” Gotta love it. He commented on my cool “Ride or Die” jersey from the High Sierra Motorcycle Club which I have adorned on my last two Red Bird outings.

Lunch at Collett's Store
Lunch at Collett’s Store

My favorite parts of the loop are after the store so the plan was to forge onward until we just couldn’t go any further. It always amazes me how little traffic this portion of the loop actually gets. There are places where it is quad width but essentially it is just one beat down single track path. Few riders make it that far and the rocky ascents and descents keep many of the locals at bay. Philip was bored with the trail before the store but was really enjoying the last sections.

One view I always enjoy seeing the is the power line cut on a ridge that is on the extreme southern portion of the loop. You can see for miles in three directions! Philip was glad we stopped for photos as was Bo. The panoramic view would be even more awesome if those darned power line polls weren’t in the way, however, there wouldn’t be a view at all if the power line cut didn’t exist!

Power Line View
Power Line View

The next stop was where you cross KY66 by the Bear Creek Trailhead. Jesse was ready to bail on us but we talked him into to forging onward to the next bailout point. We were still finding some downed trees but there was always a way around, or at least we made one! There is about 3 miles of gravel and 4 miles of road in this portion of the loop but everyone was a bit tired and welcomed the rest.

I stopped when we arrived at the turn down the hill to the goat trail to see if Jesse was good to go or if he wanted to continue. He stuck with us and was then committed to completing the entire loop. He’d only done that once before so I was glad for him. Plus, he had a hand saw, so I was glad for us!!

I really like these last sections of the loop. They see very little traffic and I like the nice single track sidehill trails. There were a few BIG trees down once again but we found ways up and around each one without eating too much time. Forward progress was essential but based on the timing of things I knew we’d make it around.

We came down the trail to Section 21 and there was a massive tree down right across the entry. It had smashed the trail marker and there was no apparent way around. I sat there for a minute and decided to just take the fire road down to Big Double and back to the trailhead. It was the wise thing to do. About 10 minutes later we arrived back at the Peabody trailhead with no broken bikes or riders. Bo’s odometer showed exactly 73 miles and mine was at 70.53. I explained that was because my Yamaha’s front wheel was off the ground so much more than his KTM.

Another successful and hard fought loop was completed. Not everyone can do it in one day so I feel that it is a worthy accomplishment. Give it try someday if you haven’t made the entire loop. Get some good maps and take along a good guide. It is worth the effort.

See you on the trail!

 

 

Customizing your Story Map

NOTE:  My blog was hacked in late 2014 and some of the content from this post is missing. Click here to download a PDF version of the post that contains all content. Sorry for any inconvenience.

The idea of using a map to tell a story is nothing new at all. Maps have always been the perfect tool for explaining “where” something exists (or occurred) and how that relates to other “events” that are part of a story or message being delivered. Well, the GIS gurus at esri have come up with a nifty “template” that makes it easy to build an interactive “Story Map” using your own data. So, if you have a story to tell, all you need is some simple point data, photos or videos, a little narrative text, and a login to ArcGIS.com.

Here in the Bluegrass State, we are very lucky to have an abundance of thematic data layers that are appropriate for this type of “Storytelling” so the staff at DGI began working to pull together the resources that are necessary to create an effective Story Map. The decision was made to create Feature Services on our ArcGIS Server instance but we could have just as easily uploaded shapefiles or CSVs to ArcGIS.com.

The first Story Map to get completed was the one that highlights the Lodges at Kentucky’s State Parks. We were able to collaborate with the marketing and GIS Staff over at State Parks to make this happen. They supplied some outstanding photos and reviewed their GIS data to make sure everything was in order. A web map was created on ArcGIS.com using the data, the photos were placed on a web server, and a Story Map template was downloaded from esri. Wiring up the template to our data was a breeze but our app had the same look and feel of all the other Story Maps out there. We needed to do something to set ours apart from the crowd.

Ky State Park Lodges
Ky State Park Lodges

Well here’s the ticket . . . check out this blog post. If you understand CSS, can leverage the developer tools in your browser, and know your way around Photoshop then you are in luck. You can easily “brand” your Story Map using those techniques. Below is an outline of the steps I used to customize the Kentucky State Forest Story Map.

Ky State Forests Story Map
Ky State Forests Story Map

I started off by visiting the web page for the Kentucky Division of Forestry

Good times . . . Bad times . . . on the Red Bird Crest Trail

This is mostly good, but there is some bad mixed in here and there. It all started with an invite from Charlie to go ride the Red Bird Crest Trail with he and one of his buddies from up in Indy. His friend, Steve, had three other friends from down South (Tennessee, Georgia, Florida) that wanted to tag along as well. Jesse was also able to ride down with me so we end up with 7 guys ready to ride the Red Bird Crest Trail!

A Portion of my Red Bird Crest Trail Map
A Portion of my Red Bird Crest Trail Map

I’ve known Charlie for a while but had only ridden with him once. He is a “more” than capable rider but I had no idea about the rest of the crew. So, I planned to take it easy and not throw in any side ventures or exploring sessions. They wanted to get around the whole loop and that was the goal!

Jesse and I showed up at 9:25am and they were dressed and ready to go! I felt a bit rushed but we got ourselves in order and pulled out to ride a few minutes before 10am. When we left, there was one other truck in the lot with a trailer and I assume there were 3-4 guys riding in their party. Over in the corner by the trail head sign, a man had a nice little camp setup with a tarp, a grill, and so forth. Looked like the same folks that were there last Sunday.

We all settled into a good pace and were making decent time on the trail. No one was having any issues and the group was quick to gather when I stopped. I pulled over when I saw the carsonite sign for Trail Section 4 and waited. Each rider rolled in in regular intervals, but Jesse did not emerge. Charlie leaned his bike against a tree to make some adjustments and everyone took a little break. Then Jesse showed up, but he didn’t look good. A “white shade of gray” would describe it best . . . he’d been hurt. Not good. His foot got caught on a rock or tree or something and rotated his ankle 90 degrees. Ouch! After a few minutes of debate on what to do, he decided to tough it out and get to the store. From there, he could take the road back to the trailhead. He’s tough and kinda stubborn like that.

Onward! Everything went well over the next several miles. We stopped down at the beginning of Section 8 down by Elisha Creek to explain the two alternate routes. There was a steep uphill that leads to a rocky, rooty, nasty climb but emerges on a nice wide and easy fire road. The other (easier) option was a gradual climb up to the ridge and some wide jeep width type trail to a juncture and marker for Section 8. Charlie and I hit the hard hill and the others followed Jesse up the main trail We gathered at metal sign marker for Section 8 and the last three that showed up had seen a bear run cross the trail! Cool stuff!

The plan was to skip Section 9 and head on down the road directly to the store. We were running a bit late but I really wanted to get around the whole thing. We ate a quick lunch and then got back on the trail. Jesse took some ibuprofen and headed back to the trailhead on the blacktop.

I really like the sections after the Collett’s Store and before the road crossing at the southern point on KY66. You climb up to a long ridge and then ride along it forever. At one point you hit an opening below a power line cut and you can see for miles in both directions. I always try to stop and get some photos here.

Red Bird Crest Trail Overlook
Red Bird Crest Trail Overlook

More Photos from the Red Bird Crest Trail

With little time to spare, we headed on down the ridge and finally dropped down to KY66 at the southern trailhead.

Looking forward . . .

Just like March, April came and went quickly. Today is the first day of May so that means I have 18 days left to finish the course in Wolfe County. After that race on May 20th I’ll have 5 weekends to get the one in Mercer County completed. I’m going to let Jesse and David take care of Horseshoe Bend which is just 3 weekends after the Wolfe County event. I have little to no desire to work at that place especially since I learned that mud buggies are going down in those woods now. I’ve never been a fan, but lots of racers really like that venue . . . just not one of my favorites. You can check out the locations of all the KORHS races on our new interactive map. It has some neat tools and base layers with aerial photos and topographic information. You can use the bookmarks to zoom directly to each of the venues. Check it out!

KORHS 2012 Interactive Map
KORHS 2012 Interactive Map

It’s has been fun working on a new piece of property. Wolfe County has a different variety of plants, soil types, and critters that we get to see here in central Kentucky. The problem is that this time of year I start to get burnt out on the whole course layout thing. I start to dread doing the course work when it is hot outside and it got quite warm this past weekend. This is when I start to look forward to doing some traveling and riding out West. Just plain fun . . . no worries about course layout deadlines or any work-related items at all. Getting away from it all and having no schedules to pin me down for a while is a worthy recharge for Kim and me. This is something we both look forward to all year long!

What are you looking forward to?

See you on the Trail!

The view from above . . .

One nice part about my job doing GIS for State Government is the access to the most current aerial photography and other data layers. The Federal Government through the National Aerial Inventory Program (NAIP) has acquired leaf-on aerial photography of the entire state at a 1 meter resolution every two years since 2004. In 2006 2 foot resolution (much better) was obtained. We just got the 2010 photography a couple weeks ago and have been working to mosaic it all together and make it available for everyone to use and/or view.

Horseshoe Bend - Summer 2010
Horseshoe Bend - Summer 2010

Checkout the photo above of Horseshoe Bend taken this summer as a part of the NAIP effort. You can see every twist and turn of the MX track and if you know where to look you’ll see where the KORHS course crossed some fields and where it tied into the MX track. If you look closely you can see where scoring was just inside the little kids track. Also, every jump and corner is very clear on the Supercross track on the left hand side of the image.

I cruised around the state looking at the new imagery and in most of the KORHS race locations there were few indications of our presence that were visible in the imagery. Mainly, the scoring areas and some corners on the grass track sections. These types of things are visible at the Sawmill in the area next to the road. Now in the case of Salt River Run, the imagery was acquired before the event. Thus, there is no sign there was a race there this year, but you can count the roll bales in one of his fields with great precision!

Below is a link that will allow you to view the new 2010 imagery. We haven’t exposed it in any of our public facing sites yet, but these public “services” are accessible and allow you to view it in a simple Javascript viewer in the interim.

2010 Imagery Service Javascript Viewer – Use the little buttons to zoom in and out or Shift+Click and drag to define an extent to zoom to.

Let me know if you have any questions about the aerials and when we get it out in an easy to use viewer I’ll let everyone know.

See you on the trail!