Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I love getting out in the hills. Getting out and about is one way I take a break from the routine of everyday life. There are some places that are my go to spot, I love going there and it never gets old with new sunsets and changing weather it’s always something new.  I also love exploring new places, finding traces of life where something has tried to eke out an existence from some bygone era or seeing some new geologic formation for the first time awakens my sense of adventure. I love cruising new vistas and being reminded of my place in existence and time.  

Part of going out is being prepared, and part of being prepared is studying the map. Over the last few years there has been a proliferation of mapping tools made available with high resolution imagery that is regularly updated. These new mapping tools combined with the good ol’ USGS maps or BLM\Forest Service maps allow us to know where we will be going like never before.

Sometimes however when you are wanting to go and explore a new area, it nice to know what some of the highlight spots are from other people. In my younger days I would do this by getting out my dad’s old maps and looking for the circles he and my uncle had drawn on the map of the places they had visited. Sometimes I would call my uncle and try and get directions to a place but that didn’t always work as his sense of place and mine were often drawn from different vantage points and the directions didn’t always translate.

With this little history as a backdrop I would like to introduce release 1 of my mapping site . With this first release I am introducing a mapping application that allows you to view and create your favorite spots out in the back country as well as report on the status of that site.  

When you open up the site it will initially zoom to the Whitney Pockets area in the Gold Butte region. At the top right of the map is a search tool that allows you to search all the spots that have been added to the map. This is a wildcard search so if you type petroglyph, then any spot that has petroglyph in the name will come up. After you select a name from the drop down, hit submit and the map will zoom to that particular spot.

The little orange X’s mark where there is a spot that has been added by a user.  Click the orange X to identify that spot and open the information panel. When the panel opens it will give you the name of that spot. Some spots have a link that says, “Click for more info about this spot”. This link will take you to my site where I have more detailed information about that particular spot.  Also in this panel is a checkbox that says, “This is my go to spot”.

After you check the “This is my go to spot” the panel will expand to show a form where you can submit a little bit of information about that spot. Please answer the two questions that this form asks.

If you have a favorite spot but there isn’t a X that marks the spot then you can click navigate the map to your spot and add it. To add your spot click where your spot is and a new panel will open asking for the name of the place and the type of place that it is.

I built this site with a couple goals in mind. I love studying maps so I wanted to create a site where people could access easy to use dynamic maps. Right now I just have the USGS map for the base map but in the future I will change it so you can switch between aerial imagery and hopefully historic maps and other types of base maps. I wanted a place where people could add their favorite spot and view where other people like going for new trip ideas.

I also wanted the application to be a tool that helps improve public lands management. Folks are always asking for ways that they can be involved. I want this site to be a place where after you visit a spot you can report on the condition of that place so if we need to put together a clean-up then we know where to go. As the database builds with user reports I will work with local non-profits like Partners-In-Conservation to ensure we are good local stewards of our public lands.  As reports come in I can create maps to depict where clean-ups need to take place. The map below is a heat map of the current locations that have been added to the map. It shows where people’s favorite places are to visit. This is an example of the types of maps that I can create:

In the next version I am going to start adding roads into the map so you can view different trails and report on their status. This will then help people know when they are planning their trip what the conditions of the roads are and what type of vehicle will be needed to traverse the road.

Please go check out the site and add your favorite spot and report on the conditions of places where you have visited recently. I hope that this site will be a tool that is useful and informative and that you will check back often for updates and to find new places to explore.