Friday, April 29, 2011

More on Maps

Update.-- I have also added the approximately 800 acres added to the NP in 2003, but as I understand or can find information, hasn't been completed pending funds and legal issues, just outside the Carbon River entrance in the northwest quadrant of the NP. This is an exclave surrounded by private timber and USFS land, the latter making up the land between the eastern boundary and the NP to put the Carbon River in federal jurisdiction, map below.

The boundary is approximate from the one map I could find, again, and like the 1987 additions, I can't find a legal description, and everything is in Washington D.C. and not on-line (that I could find). Gee, that's being useful for here.

Original Post.--Well, I learn more each day, which considering my age and getting older some days faster than I would like. I noticed the NP boundary I was using from the USGS NP maps of 1971 didn't account for the changes from the 1987 boundary changes, see map, above and about halfway down the Web page.

Well, through all the searches I couldn't find the legal description of the land so translated the changes to an approximate boundary I use on the map Web pages and the only maps. As you can see the map above (a copy) is terrible at best, so the boundary isn't exactly accurate, unlike the other boundary determined from USGS maps and legal descriptions.

I was able to add the additional land on the southern boundary, which put the entire Stevens Canyon road in the NP and not under joint responsibility of the NPS and USFS, the latter I assume was happy to give the NPS, and the western boundary for the old road over Round Pass, and now a trial, and again for the same reason of responsibility.

What I wasn't able to determine was the change on the eastern boundary which I think transferred land from the NPS to the company who owns and operates the Crystal Mountain Resort. I don't know this but it appears the NPS ceded the top of the ridge for ski lifts. But until I can confirm what land was transferred to whom, I didn't change the boundary.

If anyone has information or a source to determine the deal with the eastern boundary or knows where I can view a map of the other changes, beside the obvious "On file with the office in Washington D.C." - like I'm going to go there just for that - I'd appreciate it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lame Duck Congress

We all argue how stupid they are, or most before the recent one where a lot of good and some bad bills passed Congress and signed by the President. That's not what I want to present here, but a lame duck session in 1891. In those years the Congress didn't begin their two-year session of Congress until later in the spring so the lame duck session lasted through the winter and into the spring.

Ok, but what does that have to do with events in Mt. Rainier NP. Well, the forests of the east have already been devasted with timber cutting and lack of reforestation. Everyone relied on there being more forest west and letting nature reforest any eastern forests. And by the 1980's and more so in the 1890's many worried the beauty and treasures of the western lands would be gobbled up for forest and commerical development.

So, in researching the 1890's for the work to get Mt. Rainier into a forest reserve and later a national park, I found his explanation of how the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 go passed over the opposition. According to the National Park Service history, there was this explanation.

"Meanwhile, a threatened shortage of natural resources only enhanced the prestige of the park idea's competing philosophy, utilitarian conservation. The Census Report of 1890 added a special note of immediacy to such fears by calling attention to dwindling supplies of timber and arable lands on the public domain. Congress responded in May 1891 with passage of the Forest Reserve Act, which slipped past opponents from the West in the confusion surrounding the close of the lame-duck session. But although the legislation was largely unpublicized, it was far-reaching. Under the act Congress gave the president unilateral authority to proclaim appropriate areas of the public domain forest reservations. President Benjamin Harrison acted promptly by designating 13,000,000 acres of the mountain West in this category by 1893. Subsequent additions by presidents Grover Cleveland and William McKinley swelled the system to approximately 46,000,000 acres. Here the figure stood in September 1901, when Theodore Roosevelt entered the White House in the wake of McKinley's assassination."

It was President Harrison who created Mt. Rainier NP, first as a forest reserve (1893), just before leaving office, and second President McKinley as a national park (1899). In researching the early pre-NP and immediate post-NP history I found that politics in the US and Congress hasn't changed. Politicians have been and are the same, whatever flavor you want to call them.

So, in light of the fact that millions of acres of western forest lands were preserved and quite a few national parks and wilderness areas subsequently created from this act, I'm not so much against them if they're productive, and a little sneaky for good of and for America and the American people, which we enjoy today.

USGS and Google Maps

Well, I finally got the NP boundary onto Google maps (it's on the terrain version in some areas of the NP). It's currently on the access Web page. But in reviewing that Web page I discovered some problems with the locations of the markers. I have updated them on this Web page but in doing so realized a small problem.

For one when you blow up the scale of the Google map you will encounter some markers appear to be misplaced or mislocated on the map. Ok, there are two reasons for this. First, user error. I did miss identify the latitude and longitude on some and I'm reviewing all the markers for location. To do this I'm using National Geographic TOPO software which are scanned USGS topographic maps.

And here's where some problems arise. First, their scanning and location algorithm isn't 100% accurate. That's expected as you can only get so good. I will say NG's is the best topographic software, but it doesn't mean the location algorithm is perfectly accurate. It's quite good but leads to the other problem.

The USGS has always used the North American Datum of 1927 (NAD 1927) for horizontal control of location and maps. It's the standard for all their topographic maps. However, a new standard, the North American Datum of 1983 (NAD 83) was developed and in use for many applications. The differences are small but significant for accurate locations on maps.

This is why markers may appear off, while I use NAD27 consistently throughout my photo guide, Google and others will use NAD83. If you're using the coordinates from my maps or Web pages, just switch your application back to NAD27 and you'll find the locations are accurate as reasonable possible from 1:24,000 USGS maps.

The second issue and sometimes problem is elevation. Again I use the USGS standard, National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929 (NGVD29), formerly Mean Sea Level (MSL). The newer standard, North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD88), uses a different algorithm of the earth shape.

Unfortunately, unlike horizontal datum differences, vertical datum differences between the two are really different, sometimes in the 10's of feet. If you're using a GPS, you're likely using NAD83 and NAVD88, so you will need to translate if you use a USGS topographic map or the maps on this photo guide.

You see, I'm a long time user of NAD27 and NGVD29 and have no real interest or intent to swich. This is because I still use USGS topographic maps which uses them. And after 28 years in the USGS, I'm used to it and comfortable with it, long before topographic software was available and long before NAD83 and NAVD88 was accepted by the USGS (still isn't completely).

Anyway, that's the entry to date. Lots more work ahead adding the NP boundary to all the 25+ maps in the photo guide and checking the location of all the markers with each map. But you can know what standard I use and switch if you're using the newer one and want to use the locations for your use.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Coming soon

Paradise this morning

Yeah, I know, lots of promises to be here and on the Website soon. And in reality, most will be there by the end of this week for May 1st when pretty much everything changes in the operations of Mt. Rainier NP. May is the start of spring, and in spite of the still late winter-like weather with cold temperatures and snow in the mid and higher elevations, things will change.

This is already happening at the lower (<3-4,000 feet) elevations and higher as the month progresses and the snow melts, opening the forests and lower meadows to spring. Yes, real spring in the NP is not far away now, but with the extensive and higher than normal snowpack, it will be awhile before most of the NP is snow-free this year.

But that's beside the point of this post. Which is? Well, for one I finally got Google's map to display the NP boundary, something they don't do. Ok, one weekend spent playing with the topographic software and Google's map code to get both the original boundary and the 1971 boundary on the map.

At this point I need to resolve the differences in the boundary where it hasn't changed (the lines don't overlap, yet anyway). And then find a way to get the block of code - some more testing to find a short cut - into the map Web pages. If I can't get this done by the end of the week I'll use the method I know works for at least one map.

So, if you're like me and a spring-summer hiker, get the boots and gear out and ready. It's not far away in time and place, and we'll just have to put up with a little snow for awhile this year.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Google Maps

Update III (4/26/11).-- Well, I have the NP boundary on the Google maps now, both the original one in 1899 and the latest, revised in the 1920's for the additional lands. I will be adding them to the individual maps over time as it's a cut and paste block of code starting with the updated maps and then the other maps.

Update II (4/19/11).-- Google has introduced Google Mapmaker to allow users to update, edit or correct maps, and upon review make the changes permanent to Google's map set. Well, I will try this after I try adding the NP boundary they refused (below) to add to their maps, despite it being just a closed point line dataset defining the boundary. If the that works, I'll look to add it permanently.

Update (4/7/11).--I found in Google's documentation for their maps a way to add (overlay) a line on a map. So, with some testing on one map, I add the NP boundary where they have decided it's not worth the effort. If it works, I'll replicate the code to all the map and the template.

Sometime last year Google replaced their maps provided from other sources with their own in-house mapping service. Except, while wanting to control the production and quality of their maps, they screwed up the quality for national parks. They have simply not added the political boundary defining the major national parks, Mt. Rainier NP among them, so you can't easily see where the NP ends and the surrounding Forest Service lands begin.

I reported this a short time after the change and only got an answer today, stating,

"We apologize. It appears you submitted a Google Maps problem a while ago, and we failed to update you. We've reviewed the problem and cannot confirm that a change is needed. If you still see a problem, please tell us more about the issue.

Thanks for your help,
The Google Maps team"

Well, that's a rather late, "Gee, I'm sorry but we don't really care." reply. Yes, I'm angry. Not just being a geographer, but more so for not improving the maps. The old one had the boundary to Mt. Rainier NP, and other NP's clearly marked, along with the surrounding lands, in this case the USFS different forest (Snoqualmie-Baker, Gifford, etc.) and wilderness areas around Mt. Rainier NP.

Apparently good customer service and improving their product isn't in their agenda? Well, I rely on Google's map, but now I'll explore to see if there is a better on-line interactive map available which is better and fits my maps, such as mapquest. I'll keep you posted if or when any change is made.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Monthly News & Reports

Like the snow at Paradise, about 17 feet (4/17/11), I've been inundated with other things this years, chief among them health issues - yeah, it sucks getting old but that's another story for elsewhere, and I haven't had time to get the monthly updates, news and reports out on the first of the month and now it's past the middle of April without that report.

So, I've decided to merge April and May news into May since it's the start of the winter to spring transistion. This means the next report will be on-line around May 1st, or thereabouts, and hopefully a few days before so folks will be ready for May when the NPS transistions the NP to spring. This will be difficult as there is still snow throughout the NP except for the northwest corner so all the roads are closed except the road to Paradise.

In addition, we're waiting for the signs of the onset of snowmelt. Since we're running about 120% of normal snowpack and it's been increasing abnormally later into this month, it will be awhile before the snowmelt is actually seen beyond the data. Normally April is when the snowfall decreases to zero and the snowpack levels off to the onset of snowmelt season the first week of May.

And that's the rub this year, as you can see from the snow water equivalent graph for this year to date (below).

This is where the next 2-3 weeks of spring will determine if the snow lingers longer near the normal peak, as some are predicting a cooler spring into June, or starts some measure of snowmelt. Already the snowpack has melted and compressed, the thawing and refreezing diurnal which happens, dropping from 18 feet to 17 feet in a few days, but still the same amount of water and thus snowmelt hasn't practically started.

That said, I'll keep you posted when the latest news, updates and reports are available.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

DNR Book and Other News

Several problems have been found with the Web pages for the Washington Department of Natural Resources book on the geology of Mt. Rainier National Park, found here. I think all of the problems have been resolved on my end, but there seems to be problems with the State's Website so you can use the alternate site to get the book or individual parts of the book.

I will be adding some more stuff on these when I resolve the problems or find new sources along with review other Web pages where I serve material from my (Apple) Mobile Me account. I hope to copy everything off that account to keep it as a backup than a primary source. Apple keeps changing things to access the folders and files, something I don't want to chase frequently.

In other news, the April and May updates will be on-line soon. I've been late all year with these but it's less important in the winter and nothing really changes, or at least this year, where updates are critical until June. So, in the next two weeks both months will be on-line (yeah, those promises are always easy to say). I'll keep you posted.

For now, there's still lots (about 18+ feet) of snow at Paradise and only the northwest corner is snow free. And it keeps snowing in the mid to upper elevations while melting in the lower elevations.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Government Shutdown

Update.--Apparently there won't be a shudown, yet anyway. So the NP should be open as usual this weekend. The two future fights in Congress will be raising the debt ceiling and the 2012 budget, but the first doesn't effect the government operation and the second will only if they can't get one by October 1, 2011, the start of the 2012 fiscal year. As Rusty Wallace said, "Stay tuned hotrod, we're just getting started."


Sad as it may be, if the government shuts down tonight at midnight, Mt. Rainier NP will be closed. The Nisqually entrance in the southwest entrance will be closed at the Nisqually entrance gate and the Carbon River entrance in the nothwest will be closed at the NP boundary. The other entrances are already closed for the winter, but those entrances will be closed to all winter travellers, either cross-country skiers, snowshoers or snowmobilers.

Nothing will be open and only a basic staff will be there as "essential" employees to keep the basic services working, such as facilities, roads and other activities. You won't be allowed to park outside the NP and walk inside. It will be officially and totally closed to all visitors. If caught, you'll be escorted out (ticket optional).

That's what a government shutdown does, shutdown all "non-essential" services and laying off all "non-essential" employees. I was a USGS employee during the 1995 shutdown, except I worked as a critical, essential employee without pay for the entire 4 weeks (one week then another three weeks).

If it happens, I personally expect this one to last awhile until Mr. Boehner gets his head out of his ass and become a human being to agree with the Democrats and the President to the budget proposal. I won't touch that issue here, only he's the holdup and holdout causing this shutdown, if it happens.

We'll see. I hoping but I'm not holding my breath. As the old adage goes, been there, done that.

Friday, April 1, 2011


I found a problem with the USGS maps in PDF for Mt. Rainier NP, at this Web page. Apple changed the structure of public folder on the me accounts (iDisk) where you can't go directly to an individual file but must go through the folders. That sucks, so I moved all the maps to my Website where they will be served there.

You can download them through or view them in your browser. If you're using an iPhone or iPad, there is a Topo Map application which allows you to download the same USGS topographic maps into your iPhone or iPad and view them seemlessly. I use this app when away from my Mac with National Geographic's Topo applications.

This iPhone/iPad app is handy, especially since you can get the whole NP in one seemless map. The drawback with the app is that it's not accurate for location or elevation, which I assume is due to the algorithm from the point data used to make the map. It's significantly off, something I learned and had to redo a lot of point data for a Google map Web page I'm working on.

Otherwise, it's cool or you can download the individual PDF maps onto your iPhone or iPad. I apologize for not see this problem earlier, and I hope it didn't cause any inconveniences.