Map, Compass & GPS

Map, Compass & GPS
Wild flowers along Fall Creek on the way to the Green Lakes - Oregon

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Blue Green Algae

Our local news outlet recently had a post about blue green algae. A big healthy Lab swam through the algae, groomed his coat by licking it  and ingested the poisonous algae/

Stay away from this toxic water algae bloom.

The following is a post from about two years ago.  It's a real problem.

Blue/Green Algae is really toxic to your pet.  Keep away.

Every summer in the Cascades of Oregon hikers and campers are warned about Blue Green algae.  The warnings arrive as the temperatures rise.  In some cases the algae infestation can become quite dangerous.

Algae are microscopic organisms that grow naturally in the lakes and waters of Oregon.  Some species such as cyanobacteria can produce toxins that can cause serious illness or death in pets, livestock and humans.

Warnings are provided by the State's Office of Public Health.  Severe conditions can be visually detected by the presence of a thick scum or foam that is white, brown, blue green or bright green.

Contamination systems range from a mild skin irritation to dizziness, paralysis, cramps, vomiting and diarrhea.

So, when in doubt stay out and don't drink it.

Importantly for the hiker, you can not treat the toxins.  Water filtration and boiling has not been proven to be effective.

Should your pet become covered with the algae immediately wash them with water from another source.  Do not allow them to lick the algae off their body. 

For a detailed report on Blue Green Algae visit the US Forest Service site here Blue Green Algae.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Ten Essentials.

   
On a warm afternoon in July, a family leaves a trail head with the goal of summitting the South Sister Mountain in Central Oregon.  It was a rough hike as they took a path not frequently traveled.  By evening it became obvious that this group would not make it to the summit and the glacier they were attempting to cross was icing up; it just wasn’t safe to press on.  911 was called and a local SAR team reached them after midnight.  The temperature on the glacier was quickly dropping below 40° (F) and the hikers were getting cold.

When the SAR team reached them, they found that the group had some food and water but no other gear.  The hikers’ clothing selection was questionable too.

What is the right stuff to carry in the outdoors?  What is the minimum?  What should you consider before hitting the trail?

A climbing group in the 1930's, The Mountaineers from Seattle authored the “Ten Essentials” describing ten items that should be carried in the back country. 

“The Ten Essentials” has been modified by different groups over the years.  The following is the list that REI recommends:

  1. Navigation
  2. Sun protection
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination
  5. First-aid supplies
  6. Fire starter
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter

This is the minimum that one should carry.  It is a starting point.

For a more detailed look at what should go into your survival kit take a look at “Build the Perfect Survival Kit” by John D. McCann.  This book evaluates equipment and provides suggestions for kit components based on your outdoor needs.  For example, he has check lists for the day hiker and expands that to the deep woods trekker or SAR team member.
  
Now that you have the gear, what should you consider as you head in to the back country?

I was searching the Internet last year looking for other suggestions on wilderness travel planning.  I came across a web site hosted in Norway.  I read that after a series of accidents and 18 deaths on Easter 1967, the Norwegian Red Cross and Norwegian Mountain Touring authored what is known as the Norwegian Mountain Code.  (To find this information in detail, Google search on “the Norwegian Mountain Code.”)

The basic elements of the code are (and I am quoting from the site):

  1. Be prepared -Be sufficiently experienced, fit and equipped for your intended trip.
  2. Leave word of your route – Tell a responsible person your travel plan. (See the recommended Hikers Trip Plan at    click on links.”)
  3. Be weather-wise - An old adage advises that you should always be alert to forecasts of bad weather, yet not rely completely on forecasts of good weather.
  4. Be equipped for bad weather and frost. - Always take a rucksack and proper mountain gear. Put on more clothing if you see approaching bad weather or if the temperature drops.
  5. Learn from the locals.
  6. Use a map and compass.  Take a GPS too.
  7. Do not go solo. - If you venture out alone, there is nobody to give you first aid or notify a rescue service in an emergency.
  8. Turn back in time - sensible retreat is no disgrace. - If conditions deteriorate so much that you doubt you can attain your goal, turn around and return.
  9. Conserve energy and build a snow shelter if necessary.. 



The Scouts got it right – be prepared.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Wolf Attack

There was a good short post on last night's evening news (NBC).

A family was camping in Canada when attacked by a wolf.

See the story below.  Wolf Attack

Magnetic Declination

Declination: A Noun. The horizontal angle between the true geographic North Pole and the magnetic North Pole, as figured from a specific point on the Earth.”


 Declination is a term that causes “brain cramps” for many of my students in my map and compass classes. When I mention Magnetic Declination eyes roll.


The web site www.magnetic-declination.com has an excellent discussion of what declination is and what causes it:


“Magnetic declination varies both from place to place, and with the passage of time. As a traveler cruises the east coast of the United States, for example, the declination varies from 20 degrees west (in Maine) to zero (in Florida), to 10 degrees east (in Texas), ......the magnetic declination in a given area will change slowly over time, possibly as much as 2-25 degrees every hundred years or so.......... Complex fluid motion in the outer core of the Earth (the molten metallic region that lies from 2800 to 5000 km below the Earth's surface) causes the magnetic field to change slowly with time."

Land navigation is based on the relationship to the North Pole; also known as “true north.  The measure of degrees of direction in relation to true north is called “degrees true.”  Maps are laid out in degrees true.  Land features (buttes, mountains, streams) on a topographic map are in reference to degrees true.  By that I mean the bearing from one mountain peak to another will be referenced in degrees true.  The map below illustrates that point. 








Magnetic compasses do not point to true north (the North Pole); the magnetic needle points to an area that could be considered the magnetic North Pole. 
As illustrated below, declination data can be found in the diagram at the bottom of a USGS topographic map, (on some commercially produced maps it can be hard to find.) 

Because declination changes over time, I recommend that map declination information be verified at www.magnetic-declination.com.   This is essential in the Pacific Northwest where maps are notoriously out of date in terms of road,  and city data.
So, how do we make this simple?  How do we convert magnetic to degrees true?
I could do the math.  In Oregon, where I live, the magnetic declination is 15.6° East declination.

My recommendation: have the compass do the work so that there is no confusion with the math.

To do this, I need to choose a compass that can be adjusted for declination.  Some examples are the Silva Ranger or the Suunto M3.

With one of these compasses, the compass dial or housing is adjusted and rotated manually.  Both the Suunto and Silva Ranger come with a small, flat adjusting tool.  Consult with owner’s manual that came with the compass.

If declination is Easterly (Western U.S.) I will rotate the dial causing the baseplate’s orienting arrow to move in a clockwise direction.

   If declination is Westerly (Eastern U.S.) I will rotate the dial causing the baseplate’s orienting arrow to move in a counter-clockwise direction.

Now, adjust the dial and align the red magnetic needle on top of the orienting arrow (the red arrow engraved on the baseplate) the compass will provide directions in degrees true.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Storing Your Camping Gear

The following post is by Guest Contributor Lee

You will need to store your camping gear between outdoor activities. However, don't just throw all your items into a closet. Instead, follow these camping gear tips to ensure you are ready for your next adventure.

Put Your Items in a Secluded Place

Unless you go for an adventure every week, you probably want your camping gear to stay in a safe and secluded space. Space needed will depend on how much equipment you need to store, but some of the places where you can store your camping gear include the garage, an unused closet, or the attic. Consider finding a self-storage unit if you don't have enough space in your house to keep your camping gear.

Keep Your Camping Gear in a Sealed Container

Don't just go with the cheapest option when you are looking for camping storage containers. Instead, look for containers or shelves that meet your needs and are durable. You could store outdoor gear on heavy duty wall shelves or in portable lockers that can serve as a bench while camping. Make sure to get tightly sealed containers if you live in an area with high humidity. Moreover, tie-down loops and reinforced handles can help secure the storage locker in your vehicle.

Label Every Package

Once you have sorted out the gear, place them in labeled containers. It can be advantageous to use clear packages as they let you see what is inside. However, labeling makes it easier to find an item. You can use a permanent marker to write on the bag or packaging container. Alternatively, you can apply self-sticking labels to each container or bag. Self-sticking tags can be an attractive option especially if you want to make changes later or if you are short-sighted.
Your labeling options can change a bit if you are using fabric containers such as canvas bags. You can use a sewing machine to personalize your gear. Alternatively, you can attach luggage tags to the handles. You can use duct tape to make personalized luggage tags. You can also write descriptions on slips of paper and attach them to your bags or containers using a laminator. You can use whatever is at your disposal to be as creative as possible.

Keep the Odor at Bay

Nothing is more irritating than pulling out your camping gear before an adventure and discovering that it smells awful. Your camping gear can be ruined by dirt, mildew, and/or bad odor. It is necessary to clean your camping gear thoroughly before your next trip. Clean and dry your camping gear, especially your bedding and tent before even storing it to avoid a disgusting smell. You can also pack a dryer sheet along with your camping gear to help with the smell.

Compartmentalize Smaller Items

To help keep track of everything, it would be good to put small, related items together. You can keep cooking gadgets and utensils in something like a toolbox. You can browse the internet to find boxes of different sizes and shapes to ensure you find the container that fits whatever you want to store. Plastic bags are an inexpensive and convenient option for storing as well. You can even recycle items such as comforter bags and coffee cans to reduce the costs. You will be able to find what works best for you.


Hopefully these tips can help you figure out how best to store your camping gear between trips this summer. You’re going to want to be able to find everything each time you go, and maybe incorporating a few of these can help you. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Talking to Strangers

This post is about discussing how you you train your children to deal with stranger dealing with strangers in the backcountry.

I clearly remember my parents telling me that I was never to talk to strangers.  Strangers just weren't safe.


It was a different country in 1958.  A parent could tell their child to walk to the corner market with a list of items to purchase.

Sadly, today we read/hear about the abduction of young people all to frequently.

Let's frame the discussion.



Perhaps you are on a camp out at the local state park. After lunch your two boys can not be found.  Finally, the park Ranger calls the county Sheriff who in turn calls out/activate the Search and Rescue (SAR) team to find and rescue the boys.

In my county (in Oregon) SAR is maned by roughly 70 volunteers and a hand full of paid staff (deputies).  It can take20-50 minutes for those volunteers to respond and report to the SAR facilities.  For a large search that require assets from surrounding counties a large scale search For the volunteers to respond and rendezvous at a specific locations.

Every SAR team member wants the lost hiker to be rescued.  And, every one of the SAR team are strangers.  Should your boys not respond to the SAR voices or whistle blast.

I'd recommend that you and your children have and carry the "Ten Essentials." which includes a whistle.  Practice what you want to have your hikers do.

Ten Essentials:Ten Essentials


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Navigating a Topograhic Map




Reviewing a topographic map is usually the starting point for the planning of any back country trip.  A topographic map is your road map to the outdoors.  It provides you detailed information at a scale that is meaningful and detailed.  For years, the US Geologic Survey (USGS) has been the principal publisher of accurate maps.  Within the last decade we have seen many innovations in mapping products that include new mapping companies and publishers, software, maps for the GPS, and “Apps” for the iPhone.
Outdoor Quest/Blake Miller image

Still, the USGS map remains the standard for back country navigation (visit the USGS’s site at www.topomaps.usgs.gov.)   I’d also recommend looking at June Fleming’s “Staying Found” or Bjorn Kjellstrom’s “Be Expert With Map & Compass.”  Once you develop a map foundation you will easily shift to many of the other products on the market today. 

Many publications, videos, and web sites will give you a te rundown on the features, symbols and components to a map.  This article will discuss a few of the key features that you should be aware on a 7.5 minute map.

·         Contour Lines These are the thin brown lines that snake across the map.  Contour lines connect equal points of elevation such that every point on that line will be at that elevation above sea level.  Visually, the contour lines give you a mental three dimensional view of the terrain.  These lines provide a view of slope and pitch, depressions, ridge lines and level ground; the highs and lows of the earth’s surface. 
Outdoor Quest/Blake Miller image
 These lines provide shape and a sense of texture. There are two primary types of lines, index and intermediate lines.  Index lines stand out as they are a touch wider, a darker shade of brown and indicate the elevation with numbers such as 4500; the elevation is in feet.  Between the index lines are the thin intermediate line that are spaced uniformly and further define the elevation, slope and contour.  The intervals between the intermediate lines are specified at the bottom of the map adjacent to the scale data.

·     Scale Consider scale as your view of the map; it is like your “overhead zoom” setting.  To cut to the chase, a 7.5 minute map or quadrangle has a scale that is referred to as 1:24,000; where one inch is equal to 2000 feet.  It is your best source of information of the back country.  At this scale, the map has much more validity and provides more usable information for your backcountry planning.  You can view important landmarks, streams and geographic features.  To complete the navigation picture I always refer a second map, such as a map of the national forest (e.g., the Deschutes National Forest.)  Commonly, such a map will be “zoomed” way out and have a scale of 1:100,000 or 1:250,000.  Imagine that such a map would be made up of many 7.5 minute quadrangles.

·    North  Features on a map such as trails, roads, mountain peaks and streams are all laid out in relation to true North; the North Pole.  The north-south borders of the map and the small declination diagram are your best references for true North.  Other grid lines (such as the red Township, Section and Range lines) may not be aligned to true north at all.  Be careful of these lines should you need to triangulate your position on a map.

·    Declination This is the angular difference between true North and Magnetic North.  The red needle on your magnetic compass points to Magnetic North.  The accuracy of the information found in the Declination Diagram is dependent on the age of the map.  To get the latest declination for any area visit www.magnetic-declination.com.

Personally I use a magnetic compass that I can adjust for declination; it just makes my navigation easier.  When adjusted, my compass provides bearing information in degrees true as does my map and my adjusted GPS.

·    Coordinates Latitude and Longitude (Lat/Long) are the familiar coordinate system to most outdoorsmen and women.  Coordinate data is found at the top and bottom corners of each map.  Lat/Long coordinate increments are also found every 2’ (minutes) and 30” (seconds) on the sides of the Map.  A scaling device is necessary to pull complete coordinates off a map; this is a pain.

In the 1940’s a coordinate system know as Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) was developed.  To keep a very long story short, your 7.5 minute map has a new grid laid over it, the grid dimensions are 1000 meters by 1000 meters.  For more complete   information on UTM grid visit the USGS’s web site UTM or Lathem’s “GPS Made Easy” (which is probably at your local library.)

Simplicity is the essence of UTM.  Scouts, hunters and hikers have joined Search and Rescue (SAR) teams around the country in using this system. 

Your GPS receiver can easily be switched to UTM from the set-up menu.

·    Bar Scales   Notice the bar scales at the bottom of the 7.5 minute map.  The scales provide measuring data in miles, feet and meters.   On the far left side of the meter scale, the scale is broken down into units of 100 meters, this applies directly to UTM.

Notice on the scale bar (feet) that 1 inch equals 2000 feet.

·    Map Datum Information about map datum is found in the lower left corner of a 7.5 minute map.  I have found that the simplest definition from GPS maker Garmin is:

“A math model which depicts a part of the surface of the earth. Latitude and longitude lines on a paper map are referenced to a specific map datum. The map datum selected on a GPS receiver needs to match the datum listed on the corresponding paper map in order for position readings to match.”

The bottom line: most 7.5 minute maps are made to the North American datum of 1927 (NAD27 or NAD27 CONUS on your GPS).  New GPS receivers are set to datum WGS84.  The difference between the datum could be over 100 meters/yards.  The solution: When pulling points off a map shift your GPS’s datum to match the map. 

If precision is not an issue for your outing don’t worry about datum.

As you begin your trip planning don’t forget the magnetic compass, the important partner to any topographic map.  See Selecting a magnetic Compass for more information about buying a good compass.