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The Trailhead - General Backpacking Discussion The Trailhead General Discussion forum is for backpackers to discuss non-gear related wilderness backpacking issues (e.g. technique, LNT, hiking partner wanted, trip planning...) that are not covered in other PB forums.


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  #1  
Old 05-08-2008, 09:54 AM
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sirtimbly sirtimbly is offline
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Backpack: REI UL 45
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Posts: 29
Using Google Earth overlays to plan a trip

My wife and I are planning on doing a 3 day loop in the Lost Creek Wilderness of Colorado this weekend and I have been busy planning, I thought I would share a method I've just discovered for really getting a feel for the trail terrain before getting out there.

The first thing was to find a route of the appropriate length in a guidebook, or for me on trails.com where I can get access to specific hikes from many guidebooks. So, once I've essentially settled on a loop through the Lost Creek wilderness, I went to libremap.org/data and grabbed the quad map for the area I was looking at. Luckily all of the trails I was looking for were clearly marked on this map! So I opened this .tif file up in Photoshop and created a new layer over the map, and started tracing with the brush tool (use a bright color) over the path I plan on taking. Once the path is complete I crop the map to the corners of the topo details(to make the dimensions of the image match the lat and lon corner coordinates on the map), then I turn off the topo map layer, save this file as a transparent .png file. Then open up google earth, add an overlay, browse to find my .png file. Then open up the original topo map that I downloaded and reference the North/South/East/West lat and lon coordinates and put those into the location tab of the new overlay window in Google Earth. Switch to the Altitude tab and change the drop down there from "abslute" to "clamped to ground". Name it and hit OK. Viola, you should have a nice colored line sitting right on top of the terrain features in google earth! It's so much more enlightening to be able to rotate, pan, and zoom around a 3D model of the terrain you will be travelling.

Topo lines just don't cut it for me, I really need to see the path from every angle to understand what kind of terrain I will be travelling through. One neat thing you can then do is start a measurement path inside Google earth and measure out precise distances along the path to get to landmarks, or see what your exact altitude will be at any point along that trail. Best of all you can see what the sunset/sunrise shadows will be like, and get a really good idea of when sunset and sunrise will be in the various canyons and slopes of the mountains. This helps me determine prime camp sites, and see that on the first day I need to be getting camp set up by 5:30, and on the second day I'll be on the other side of the range so I can wait until about 6:15.

Does anyone else use a similar method? Or are there software packages out there that already do this without needing the photoshop step? Anyways, I think this kml file that I prepared should have the overlay I made as an example.

It should be noted that I realize this method really doesn't tell you other important navigation information like the condition of the trail, the amount of snow or water in your path, or how long it will really take you to hike any given section. But I feel more prepared having a very clear mental 3D image of the terrain we will be going through, to supplement the map I printed out.
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Old 05-09-2008, 01:26 AM
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gunn_parker gunn_parker is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Posts: 82
I too like to have a look at where I am going or where I have been in Google Earth but I use OziExplorer to create my track then just export the track as a KML file and open it in Google Earth. Or I upload my track from my gps to Ozi and export as a KML and load it up.
Gunn
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Old 05-09-2008, 06:48 AM
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Rich Rich is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 40
I'll definitely try adding an overlay onto google earth. Didn't kow you could do that. Just yesterday I was playing with it, trying to see some things on the VT Long Trail. Had a hard time guessing the route. I'll try creating a transparent overlay based on a scan of my LT maps and see what I get.
Thanks for the suggestion!!
So which trails are you taking in the Lost Creek Wilderness? Hopefully you'll pass thru Craig Gulch - that's a great area. Look forward to seeing a trip report in the forums!
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Old 05-09-2008, 10:13 AM
© 2006-2014 Practical Backpacking™ / All Rights Reserved
sirtimbly sirtimbly is offline
Practical Backpacking™ Junior Member
Backpack: REI UL 45
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Posts: 29
That OziExplorer program looks interesting, but expensive! It would be nice to draw the waypoints and put them on a GPS and into Google Earth, though I'm not taking my GPS along this time, it's too heavy and unreliable usually. Someone mentioned QGIS in another post, that's a nice free program, but seems to have a fairly steep learning curve, and possibly a few bugs from what I saw. I was thinking it might be easier to just crop the topo map tif to the boundaries and overlay that directly on Google Earth, then use the Google Earth path tool to trace your trail on top of the trail right in Google Earth, then turn off the topo layer when you're done. This would eliminate the whole photoshop step.

We're planning on doing a loop through the southeastern part of the wilderness, up Goose Creek, then around and back over Hankins Pass. So not likely to see Craig Gulch this time, I'm sure we'll be back there again though.
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