27 June 2017

HOWTO: download USGS maps

I had an old post for this, but they changed the look about a week later and now they've changed how the whole thing works.  So here is a new one.

USGS makes their maps available for free in PDF format.  This collection includes historical maps as well as the current set in various scales.  Once in a while I claim I am wandering up a peak to see if I can find a benchmark that is on a 1905 map.  It isn't that I have some magnificent collection of maps, brought together by a grandparent and parent and kept up by myself, filling an entire basement.  It's just that I downloaded the historic map and gave it a look over to see if it had anything interesting.  I had an older version of these instructions, but the interface has changed significantly, so this needs updating.

First step: Go to the map locator.  This will lead you to this rather nondescript page:

Now find the region where you want to download maps.  This can be done by navigation dragging the map around and using the "+" and "-" buttons in the upper left to zoom.  This can be a frustrating process since the map does not zoom in when double clicked.  It does respond to pinching and pulling.  Another way is to simply search using the blank bar at the top.  Fill this in with what you want and press "enter" then select the one that seems most like what you are looking for from the choices that appear.

It is not a very smart search, so even when it only comes up with one possible meaning for what you typed, you will still have to select that.  Further, it may not offer what you want from a shorter search.  For instance, I typed in "hildreth" to get the Hildreth Peak quadrangle for my my example and was presented only with the option of "Hildreth, California, United States" which is, it turns out, a small bump outside of Fresno called Hildreth Mountain on the Millerton Lake West quadrangle.  Before, I could specify that what I typed was a quad name, but now I have to be more complete.

The locator drops a big, blue pin in the spot it has found for you.  If you are navigating to the location, you will have to double click to drop a pin.  A box will pop up saying where it is with a "View Products" button.  Click the "View Products" button to get a list of maps for the area.

You will actually see quite a lot of products as you scroll along, including some from the National Forest.  (There are two scroll bars, one for the page and one for the box containing the products. Be sure to use the right one to see all the options.) Unless filtered out, this will show maps in all scales and for all years.  For dates, pull the slider on the left to not see the older maps that are sometimes only good for trivia and pull the slider on the right to not see the useless 2012 series that tends to be missing trails and even roads.

As you scroll, you'll find that there is more than one 7.5' scale map. Before, the downloader only showed the maps that covered the exact spot you selected. Now it shows everything in a radius.  This is good in that it is often useful to have the neighboring maps but bad in that you may not know all of the maps that you want. To see what area a map covers, click on the double square just under the zoom buttons and select from "1 Degree" or "15 Minutes" or "7.5 Minutes".

And the footprints will show with labels.

That should be enough to download all the maps you might want.  There are a couple other options.

National Geographic has a set of 7.5' maps cut into quarters for easy printing on 8.5"x11" paper. Each piece of map has tick marks along the side for coordinates, which you do not get when just printing out the relevant portion of the larger PDFs available from USGS. There is only one option for each map, but there does seem to be some curating done on the collection. There is also some processing, so the maps have a consistent look. They are done in a lower quality and things like typed labels are sometimes hard to read.

Caltopo provides an interface for developing your own maps and printing custom areas. There are other maps available such as Forest Service maps. This is a much more sophisticated method and thus much more complicated. It has its own tutorial to help make it accessible.

22 June 2017

Montecito Peak

Los Padres National Forest

Trailhead location. (See previous Cold Springs East Fork or Montecito Peak trips for maps.)

The local Sierra Club chapter has a weekly conditioning hike every Wednesday evening, inviting all who feel capable of a 6-10 mile hike to meet at the Mission at 6:30 PM. For around the solstice, we have been doing a couple special hikes. Last week, we climbed up the use trail from Jesusita Trail to Cathedral Peak, then continued on to La Cumbre at the top. It would not have been a good trip for a new attendee. This week is a party up on top of Montecito Peak. It would be much more appropriate for a new comer and similar to one hiker's first hike ten years before. I request heading up along the creek rather than the old guerrilla trail and no one else has an opinion, so that is what we do. It is a half mile longer, but keeps us out of the hot sun longer. It also offers some flowers to help celebrate the start of summer.

soft blue within white
A single iris in the canyon, but it is at a perfect moment.

Linda up the trail
Hiking on in the evening canyon shade.

four purple petals
Just a little farewell to spring.

Coming along the canyon means getting to see how the flooding changed the trail, too. Rainfall one evening was over 7 inches down where the houses yield to wilder mountain and a foot up around the top. Most of the trail seems fine, but the crossings have a completely different face. The first by a pool completely washed out leaving the trail to migrate upstream a little. The second through some hard rock has changed from awkward to difficult.

rocks beside a puddle
The path the trail followed across the creek is now a long pool beside some rocks with one end blocked by a branch no one bothered to move yet.

carved rocks
A hard layer of rocks leads to carved cascades. The parts that get sun have become quite mucky with algae.

steep rocks down
The hard layer crossing has become harder. The dirt ramp that reduced the step down and helped show that the trail is crossing has washed away.

After the second crossing, the trail starts to climb. When it gets high above the upstream portion of the creek, the sound of water below vanishes. Swinging back, the sound returns, but ultimately I am going upstream and the sound of water is lost for the rest of the hike. But there are still flowers.

climbing penstemon
The climbing penstemon is hanging out over the trail in many spots.

tea house
Tea house in the lowering sun.

sunlight in the far grasses
Far up the canyon, light plays on the hills around Camino Cielo.

The trail hits the road where far too many hikers seem to think it ends. It is just a couple hundred feet more to where it splits off again to travel up to the top and then back down the other side. Thin mists are hanging over the cities, but it sure is a little warm up here. The air moves a little more than down in the canyon, but not much.

Carpinteria with a light fog
Thin mist to the east, but the Santa Monicas are still visible.

Oh, and there are still more flowers.

Mariposa lily
The first of the mariposa lilies is a delightfully hairy affair make ragged by insects, with a few still hanging out.

Turkish rugging
A brief lining of the trail by Turkish rugging.

tuft of yellow
Tufts of yellow not much bigger than the platforms of purple nearby.

buckwheat flowers
The buckwheat tufts are still soft and floral and attracting visitors.

mariposa lily surrounded by Indian pink
Soon there are more mariposa lilies, like this one surrounded by Indian pink.

lilies in the grass along the rocky trail
Then there are even more mariposa lilies lining the well used and rocky trail.

white sage flowers
The white sage is being particularly showy this year.

I am probably taking way too much time playing with my camera on the hike up. It is already getting dark as I get to the pair of stunted eucalyptus trees. Everyone else is probably already on the top.

tiny hundred year old trees
Planted quite some time ago and never getting very big, the eucalyptus trees serve as a landmark (and have even been the victims of a yarn bomb) and the 2.5 mile mark.

city at night
The lights are coming out in the city.

Above, the trail twists back and forth upward a short way. I keep my eyes on a single pine that stands out in on the hillside of brush only 4 feet high. The trail never gets close, leaving the tree mysterious. Once it has climbed above that pine, the trail gets to traveling along the mountain again. It is a long and fairly flat section where I can make some speed. It seems shorter than usual, but there is no denying the split in the trail ahead. I take the steep use trail on the right carefully up to the low saddle above, then up further up the wide and steep eroded mess to the peak. My preferred trail heads off to the right after a couple twinings and is getting a bit of poison oak on it. It climbs up over the very top of the peak to the lookout point just the other side where everyone else is gathered and tonight comes with a couple of tiny gopher snakes.

gopher snake
The larger gopher snake found right at the top is probably just over a foot long and still thinner than my smallest finger.

There is food and drink and song and hanging out all night for those that want it. Most head down again in the night. The evening never really cools off although there is sometimes a very light breeze. The city still only has thin streamers of fog over it even quite late. But with the dawn, and still no need of any sleeves up here, a blanket of fog has moved in. The sliver of moon rising needs to be photographed, but the long exposure required needs some good hold. Luckily there is an excellent rock situated well for such an endeavor.

thin moon sliver rising
The moon hanging over Old Man Mountain seemed to have glow nearly all the way around the edge at first, but has less now and will quickly vanish in the brightening sky.

blanket of fog
The cities have vanished and the distant Santa Monicas have become an island.

Getting on the rock was awkward, but there is a better trail a little way around it. Or so it seems until the buzzing starts. Suddenly, sliding inevitably down the last few inches of this rock toward a buzzing sound is very near the top of my list of places I do not want to be. It is quickly surpassed by standing on the dirt next to the buzzing sound that I still have not located. There is a certain amount of screaming. Fortunately, standing on the dirt gives me something to push against to obey the one, overriding desire to be AWAY, which means back up the rock right now. Unfortunately, since my hands are more interested in not dropping a heavy camera on the buzzing source than grabbing the handholds at the top, this just causes a repeat of sliding inevitably down a rock towards a buzzing sound. Happily, it is not a foolish stand-your-ground sort of snake. I finally spot the last few inches of tail and rattle as it is on the move along the little trail toward a smaller rock with a nice overhang. It seems unhurried as it holds the rattle high and shakes it furiously. The buzzing continues, muffled, as it tucks in under the rock while I finally collect myself back at the top of my own rock before taking the original route back to the dirt top. My feet were not much further up the rock while I took photographs from it, quite possibly about a foot from the resting snake.

Cold Spring East Fork
The trail as it continues up to Camino Cielo.

The snake under the rock gives a few more muffled buzzes when it hears conversation nearby. At least that means we still know where not to be before heading down into the fog.

scarlet larkspur
Part of a huge clump of scarlet larkspur.

white larkspur
Across the trail from most of the scarlet larkspur is a single plant in white.

wooly blue curls
Plenty of woolly blue curls in the upper reaches.

eucalyptus leaves
Back to the eucalyptus.

a few of hundreds
Just a few of the yucca flowers on a giant stalk.

It gets much cooler as I get close to the fog, even while still above any tendrils of the stuff. Once in it, it just gets nicer. With everything so hot inland, one really cannot beat the coast.

©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 23 Jun 2017

03 June 2017

Santa Cruz Trail work

Los Padres National Forest

Track on Alltrails.

National Trails Day is the first Saturday in June, which can be a touch on the hot side in the local backcountry. Still, there is a great enthusiasm for it and there are always a few events around. I decided to hop over the hill to see Santa Cruz again. I hiked it after the burn, but rain storms had come after to add further injury. We gather at First Crossing even though we were meant to gather at Lower Oso because the gate is mysteriously closed. Apparently the new management company has decided that this is where the day use areas get closed overnight and that overnight should be from 5 PM to 8 AM. The advantage of using the other gate being that there is a clear sign warning about the closure so that people do not get locked in. There is some grumbling from people who have already been locked in without any reason to think it would happen. When the Parks Management employee sees fit to open up the gate around 8 AM, we can finally get moving to and through the expected locked gate. The road to Upper Oso is closed because of damage to the campground and road surface. It looks like the high water was as far over the bridge as the bridge is above the creek bed. However, the road has been in decay for so long that I cannot see any damage that was not already there. Parking in the upper lot, all but a few of about 30 volunteers walk the last 0.7 miles up the road to the trailhead.

opening up the last gate to the OHV road
Pushing open the last gate to the OHV road to let through a lot of hikers and the truck of tools.