Why you need a dedicated navigation device for the Tour of Idaho
Martin asked me to provide some guidance regarding dedicated navigations devices (GPS units) and smart phones, specifically, the roles these devices play while navigating in remote areas. Not surprisingly, I’ve discussed this matter on numerous occasions in the past 3-4 years with a wide range of folks. And as you might expect, there is no shortage of blog posts and technical articles about this topic scattered across web. In this instance though, my aim is to lend some advice to Tour of Idaho aspirants.
The ubiquity of the smart phone, and the proliferation of apps (i.e., MotionX, Gaia, Avenza Maps, . . .) that can leverage their internal GPS chip, have muddied the waters when trying to determine which type of device to employ for a specific purpose. It is true that the GPS chipset being used in today’s smart phones is pretty darn good. That, coupled with the fact that the phones can leverage cell-towers and WiFi to improve locational accuracy, means that they perform best in more developed areas. I’m always surprised how well a smart phone works for navigation on our nation’s highways.
But think about it, that is not the “primary” function of your smart phone. Calling, texting, and e-mailing is what your phone is all about. Taking pictures, checking the weather forecast, or monitoring the Tour of Idaho Facebook feed. It does all of those things and more, and it does them very well. It is a fully-loaded digital Leatherman, a modern-day multipurpose tool that has become indispensable in our daily lives.
One thing to keep in mind is that the GPS chip embedded in your smart phone, just like that bottle opener in the Leatherman, only accounts for a small percentage of the overall functionality and cost of the unit. It does a “good” job, but its reception capabilities, especially in remote areas, are limited. I can tell you, from first hand experience, that your phone will wear itself out trying to maintain a satellite signal in some of the central Idaho valleys.
On the other hand, a dedicated navigation device, like those in the Garmin Montana 600-series, can acquire and maintain satellite connectivity in the deepest, coniferous tree filled valleys and in the dense urban canyons of metropolitan areas. Their top of the line chipset and receiver provide high-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS reception. Additionally, the WAAS-enabled receiver takes advantage of ground-based reference stations here in North America to improve accuracy on the fly. Throw a barometric altimeter and compass into the mix and you’re equipped with all the necessary tools for navigation.
All of this technology is then wrapped up in a rugged, water-resistant (IPX7-rated) casing that isn’t phased by vibration, rain, snow, or even dust. This is the type of device you want for a backcountry adventure. Cover it in mud, dump it in the creek, drop it on some rocks, or strap it to your vibrating handlebars while riding 1,600 miles across the landscape of Idaho! That’s what it is made for. You don’t want to subject your smart phone to that kind of abuse. It is important that its camera is functional so you can take the required photos at all of the Tour of Idaho challenge point locations!
Look at it this way, dedicated navigation devices don’t have the multiple personality disorder of the Leatherman (i.e., smart phone) but rather are focused and specific like a nice Snap-On 10mm combo wrench. They do one thing and they do it very, very well. Sure I can try to loosen a 10mm nut with a Leatherman if I have no other option, but we all know the 10mm Snap-On is the tool for the job.
So when it comes to the Tour of Idaho, make sure your primary navigation device is a dedicated unit and not a smart phone or tablet. Sure, load your tracks and waypoints into a mapping app as one form of backup, but just do it as a safety measure. One that you’d hope to not have to use. It is my recommendation to take two dedicated navigation devices, a smart phone, hard copy maps, and the written route description.
One last thing, you can bet good money that the next generation of smart phones will employ advanced navigation chipsets that rival current dedicated units. But the companies that make those dedicated units will also be taking advantage of new technologies. Thus in the end, whatever smart phone or dedicated navigation device you have today will become obsolete. Just remember to use the right tool for the job, but always keep that multi-tool handy, you might need it to take a selfie!
Tour of Idaho Track Development & Map Study Tip: When you’re putting together your tracks, make sure to look at both aerial photography and topographic base maps. If you’re closely following the route description, many of the peaks, saddles, passes, and valleys are much more evident on a topographic map. Switching back and forth will help you to better read and understand the terrain you’ll be tackling. Martin mentions many of these features by name and those names are typically found on the topographic maps.
As users of this nation’s public or private trails, Sharetrails.org/BRC members likely rely on a variety of mapping technologies for navigation. Being able to visualize where you are, and where you’re going is important. Maps help us gauge distance and direction, and determine elevation or ground conditions. Personally, I feel that having a good map when venturing outdoors is as important as taking water and a first aid kit. I always carry a GPS, but having a paper map as a backup provides another level of comfort during an outing. It’s familiar, provides a tactile experience, and its fun to know where the heck you are on that piece of paper!
In the past couple decades, the transition from paper to digital maps has been accelerated. We can now carry more “maps” on our GPS or cell phone than would fit in a 100 tightly stuffed backpacks 20 years ago! Additionally, digital maps are dynamic, in that we can change the base from aerial images to a topography, layers can be added, turned on and turned off, and routing between destinations can be accomplished in a couple clicks or swipes on your device. These mapping tools and their information empower us in a variety of ways and can lead to a better understanding of various types of terrain and how we move across it. But, have you ever thought about the technologies that make all of this possible?
If you are my age, you probably learned to get a feel for your surroundings with the USGS Topographic Quadrangle Map Series or a state-based gazetteer, like a DeLorme map book. The government agencies and private-sector firms that created those cartographic products are now driven by geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), and remote sensing technologies. Collectively, those high tech geospatial tools make it possible for users to access vast amounts of mapping data from a GPS unit or phone.
Entities obtain spatial data through the use of survey-grade GPS units and GPS-equipped vehicles while satellites, airplanes, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are capturing land cover, aerial photos, elevation data, and even thermal imagery. For example, the acquisition of highly-accurate elevation data using LiDAR, and aerial photos with a resolution in the range of 3″ to 6″ per pixel allows us to visualize and evaluate ground conditions like never before.
Keeping this data as up to date is a monumental task, but very critical as things change almost daily. Think about it . . . new roads are built, boundaries change, land is graded for development, trails are re-routed, sewer lines are installed, and waterways cut new paths across the landscape. A myriad of public and private entities continually track those changes. The features are then organized as layers, categorized by theme, spatially analyzed, and shared in a digital map format using GIS and web mapping services.
The value of geospatial technologies, and the underlying data, is realized when you can stand anywhere on this globe and view a map that is centered directly on your current location. Not only can you see the trail you’re traveling, but you can turn on the aerial imagery and see the stand of trees east of the trail just over the ridge. The ridge can be visualized due to the use of hillshading on the elevation data and its obvious that the last creek crossing is about 3 miles away in the valley below the next 2 switchbacks. Wow . . . you’ve never been there before, but you can see what lies ahead.
A wide array of proprietary and publicly available GIS data makes this possible. It is leveraged to provide the mapping services and downloadable data we so conveniently consume. In most cases, maps for our devices are in-expensive and readily available on the internet in formats that are compatible with our phone and GPS units. It is getting easier to do this everyday and the cost is rapidly diminishing.
Just imagine how handy this has been to Martin while laying out, and fine tuning the Tour of Idaho or for Jeff Stoess and the compilation of the Kentucky Adventure Tour. The aforementioned mapping resources have been key to their success in putting a line on the map we can follow. Their understanding of an area of interest, coupled with the dozens of map layers they studied, made both adventuresome routes possible for us to enjoy.
One important thing that goes along with having great maps at our disposal is using them to stay on the defined trail. Part of being a responsible off-road enthusiast is sticking to the route. Please realize that getting off the trail, or traveling cross country where not permitted, gives us all a bad name. You can’t claim to be lost if you have a GPS or map in-hand!
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!
Flash forward to December of 2011 when the Kentucky Aerial Photography and Elevation Program (KYAPED) effort, or KyFromAbove, 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.
“Kentucky’s investment in statewide LiDAR collection has paid dividends as DGI continues to release beautifully curated maps and data derivatives. With traditional hardcopy prints, downloadable data, and online mapping services, the KYTopo initiative delivers products for mapping professionals and the general map-consuming public.” – Jeff Levy, MPH, University of Kentucky, Department of Geography, GIS Program Coordinator
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 print-capable cartographic product and a cached web mapping service. Additionally, all of the derivative datasets (i.e., contours, hillshade, spot elevations, . . .) would be made available for download and published to the KyGeoNet. After many months of effort, two statewide contour datasets were created for the entire Commonwealth. One is somewhat aligned with the USGS contour intervals in Kentucky (10’, 20, & 40’) and the other is a statewide set of 5’ contours that leverage scale threshold settings and group layer functionality to adjust dynamically to the viewer’s map scale. The entire contour creation process was driven by a routine developed by Dean J. Tyler of the USGS.
The KyTopo map series is Kentucky-specific in several ways. First, an entirely new set of landscape-oriented quadrangle tiles were 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!
“The Kentucky topographic map series and the underlying elevation-based datasets are game changers for the Commonwealth. In their current form they represent a true alternative to the venerable USGS quadrangle map series, especially with the implementation of a standard architectural/engineering D size (36” x 24”) landscape map sheet. The cartographic quality is on par with any other map product of this type and achieves a pleasing aesthetic familiar to the legacy USGS topographic series at this scale. Of particular benefit is the ability for this series to be refreshed commensurate with underlying data updates and to be amended with future datasets that may become relevant but not available, or practical, at a national level. Another homegrown Kentucky product worthy of esteemed acclaim.” – Bryan Bunch, Kentucky Infrastructure Authority
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.
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 80% of the layers were already published to the KyGeoNet. The entire map series, and associated web mapping services, will be updated on an annual basis so changes in the transportation network, forest cover, boundaries and other features can be refreshed accordingly.
The production hardware environment for the KyTopo project consists of one enhanced 64-bit GIS Workstation with 4 cores, 16GB of RAM, and 1.5TB of SSD storage running Windows 10 Enterprise. Esri’s ArcGIS Desktop 10.5.1 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 clarity and readability of the KyTopo series provide an excellent and intuitive portrayal of the Kentucky landscape. The Kentucky Geological Survey’s Geologic Mapping Section is already evaluating how we can use these as a base for communicating our geologic mapping data.” – William Andrews, Head, Kentucky Geological Survey, Geologic Mapping Section
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. 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 maps have been produced for distribution: collared and un-collared. The collared version is a non-georeferenced PNG file that includes all layout elements (i.e., legend, inset maps, title, . . . ) whereas the un-collared version is a GeoTIFF that is limited to the area within the data frame.
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 is effective and efficient at managing symbology for a large cartographic production effort.
“The data set is very clean with proper applications of contour smoothing, index annotation and the removal of unnecessary tops that are sometimes formed during interpolation from mass point elevations. The overall look of the topo set reminded me of British Ordnance Survey maps that I have used while working in Canada and Africa. This project was well done and is professional grade.” – Jeffrey M. Laird, GISP, Kentucky Department of Natural Resources
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 any 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.
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.
The first edition of the KyTopo map series is now complete. All of the PNG and GeoTIFF images are out for download and are easily accessible via an ArcGIS Online web map. An image service in Kentucky Single Zone, and a cached map service in web Mercator, are in production as well. These services are being leveraged using ArcGIS for Desktop and a wide array of web mapping sites are adding the cached map service as an optional basemap.
KyTopo presentations performed in the past couple months have been well received. The map series has garnered numerous positive comments relating to its readability, the landscape layout, the Kentucky-specific coordinate system, and the fact that it reflects more current ground conditions. Many are thrilled to know that it will be updated on a routine basis with the most current layers.
“The look of the topo maps delivered by the KyTopo map service is stunning. KyTopo is perfect for many of our mobile applications; providing a clean, fast, and location rich base map. The enhanced elevation data adds real value, especially in rural and rugged terrain settings. The KyTopo map service is a great addition to Kentucky’s public GIS resources.” – David Carter, PE, LS, President, CDP Engineers
Additionally, the contours used in the map series and the statewide 5’ contour feature class are now in production in the Commonwealth’s enterprise geodatabases and are available for download from the KyGeoNet. This great new resource is just one of the many valuable assets Kentucky realized through the KyFromAbove effort.
See you on the trail!
For more information, contact Kent Anness, GIS Operations Manager
Kentucky Division of Geographic Information email@example.com
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Average Monthly FTP Server Requests for 2016 (through July):
5.9 million requests/several thousand unique visitors
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, 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Average Monthly Image Server Requests for 2016 (through July): 7.5 million requests/several thousand unique visitors
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!
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.
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!
Fender Well Box: I found several references to fender well boxes or covers on the Sprinter-Source forum. After noting how my motorcycle tie downs were routed it appeared that I could have one, but maybe not two.
Luckily, I had plenty of 3/4″ plywood leftover from making my partition and rear wall panels. All I had to do was figure out how I was going to put it together and secure it to the floor and walls. Making a template for the curvature of the wheel well was easy and with a few key measurements in-hand I went to work.
Initially the plan was to cover all of the box with the same Olympic deck coating that I’d used on the lower partition panel and door. However, I ended up having enough of the very nice maple hardwood plywood for the box top so I stained it with some black stain – polyurethane made by Minwax. Three sides are wrapped with 3/4″ aluminum channel to make for a nice look.
RattleTrap was employed for insulation and sound damping (not dampening) on the surface of the wheel well. Wrapping something that is square and flat over a rounded surface is never fun. Cartographers faced this issue centuries and decades ago when trying to “map” our “round” globe with flat, paper maps! As a result, there were some compromises made in this process.
I cut 1.75″ lengths of 1″ x 1″ aluminum angle and used those along with some allen-head stainless steel bolts and nylon-based stainless lock nuts in each corner. This approach ensured that the box would be very square and solid. Both of the leading corners (front and back) were encased with 1″ x 1″ aluminum angle as I knew they’d endure some abuse while loading and unloading bike and such. Those were attached with some #6 stainless screws and a bit of caulk.
The hinges I used were Austrian-made and ended up being the perfect solution. They are fully-adjustable in all directions, have a zero-clearance factor on the back side, and are soft-closing. Some foam-based weatherstripping pieces were temporarily added on the two front corners until I can come up with a permanent solution that is both functional and appealing.
Attaching it to the van was easy just above the wheel well and two 1″ x 1″ aluminum angles attached it to the floor. Once again I used stainless hardware to secure everything. It is very solid. Actually nice to sit on.
I now have my tow chain, a cable, spare tie downs, garbage bags, rags, along with stuff that was previously under the passenger seats. This is good. I’ve cleared up space up front and have shifted a bit of weight towards the rear which will further improve the ride.
Fluids Box: I’ve really been worried about carrying “fluids” in the back of the van. That wasn’t a big deal in the truck but having them “internal” to the van is a different story. About three weeks were spent trying to identify good options for holding things like antifreeze, motor oil, premix, filter oil, chain saw pre-mix, chain saw chain oil, and so forth. In the end, an aluminum tool box made by Better-Built was acquired and deployed (see photo below).
It fit perfectly on the floor where I’d planned but when the top was raised it rubbed my nice black panel rails. After some contemplation, I figured out how to space it out from side just enough so it would clear and not scratch anything at all. Very good. So far, I’ve been able to put all my “fluids” in here and with the top being sealed and only two small holes (caulked) on the bottom it should be good to go!
My next project is to mount a fire extinguisher, first-aid kit, tire pump, and come up with a great option for securing the partition door. I’m also going to place some small D-Rings on either side of where a rear tire is situated. Once that is done, I’m taking a break from all this and getting back to more riding and bike maintenance. Spring is just around the corner and I need to get some trail work done before it gets all hot and nasty!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!