Google Earth

Google Earth is a free application that provides a remarkable aerial view. You can pan and zoom from campsite to water source, peak to valley. Features such as park and wildfire boundaries, roads, cloud cover and current snow pack totals can be displayed.

With a little computer savvy, users can calculate elevation gain and loss, display elevation profiles, see which campsite will receive the first morning sun or what stars will be overhead for an exact time and place.

First, you’ve got to set up Google Earth

  1. Download Google Earth.
  2. Download the Upper Mokelumne River Canyon layer with all the waypoints.
  3. Learn how to use Google Earth and take a feature tour.

Google Earth becomes really great when you load layers like these

  • The latest snow overlays must be downloaded daily. This is a computer model based off of survey sensors. It’s not very accurate.
  • The MODIS Fire Detections KML layer shows fires. Visit the main page here. This is satellite data that updates automatically. MODIS is 1 km resolution, so 1 km2 forms a cell.  When a cell is ‘turned on’ (showing heat), there is a 50% chance there is fire within that cell. In other words, it’s also not very accurate.
  • The GeoMAC active fire perimeter KML shows large incidents, and their actual heat perimeter. This data is generally gathered by airplanes flying over the fires. Updates might not happen every day. While the GeoMAC layer is detailed, it might not be up to date. Nor does it show all fires. Generally, only the large, longer burning fires get airplane overflights and end up being shown in the GeoMAC layer.
  • The BlueSky Daily Runs are smoke forecast models.
  • Every day, the Terra satellite’s MODIS instrument takes a color picture of Earth. You can see it on our daily satellite image page or on NASA Worldview. If you click the camera icon in Worldview, you can export that day’s satellite image into a KML file and load it into Google Earth. So neat!
  • The Protected Areas Database shows land management boundaries, including USFS, NPS, BLM, reservation lands, private parcels and others. They are large files and will bog down your computer. Keep the layer off, zoom in, then open the layer. The previously linked .KMZ files incorporate the data from the official PAD database.

* Don’t trust your life to the information you gather from Google Earth.

 

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Caution: It’s still a bit treacherous out there for high country hikers

Spring Safety Tips. Yes, spring safety tips.

It is not a typical July in California’s Sierra Nevada. The snow pack is so dense that it’s like early May out there, but with July temperatures.

There’s a lot of snow out there. There’s so much snow that it’s still blocking access to some mid to high-elevation trailheads. And in the recent heat we’ve had, it’s melting fast. The snow will melt more readily on a south-facing slope, but then you turn around a little corner and the trail is gone. … And when you get to the snow, it gets deep really quickly,

The hazards are many. They’re out there every spring, but the hikers aren’t, at least not in great numbers. But with July and summer temps upon us, people want to get out and explore. This year, they’re finding downed trees, snow obscuring trails, slippery snowfields to cross, and very, very swollen rivers and creeks. Some streams are running so high that they cannot be crossed safely, and hikers need to be ready to turn around and call it a day if they encounter such conditions. Streamflows can increase as the day heats up, too.

Throughout the mountains, a particular danger is posed by “snow bridges,” where snow that typically might have melted by now covers a stream running underneath, making it “invisible” and capable of easily dropping you 10 to 15 feet into an icy torrent.

Hikers are advised to have good “route-finding skills” and to check updated trail conditions before starting out. They also should carry maps, compass and/or good GPS equipment, and know how to use it. Cellphones can be invaluable in an emergency, but hikers should not expect cellphone coverage in remote mountain areas.

As of July 4th Stanislaus National Forest Ranger Station in Hathaway Pines is not reporting closed trails, opting instead to put out appropriate advisories about the abundant snow on trails in the high country and relying on hikers themselves to take necessary precautions and preparations.

Cell phone service is spotty in the mountains, and that it can take several hours for Search and Rescue to arrive if called. You have got to be prepared to deal with an accident or injury without help for a lot longer than you think.

This is where we plead with you to remain alert. Please, please read our safety tips, even if you are an experienced hiker. Refresh your memory. Forward them to your hiker friends. Always carry the Ten Essentials. Brush up on your wilderness first aid skills.

Be over-prepared this year. Hike extra smart this year.