Friends of the Gorge rolls out 3-D Google Earth trail, waterfall map

After two years painstaking development, Friends of the Columbia Gorge has rolled out an online 3-D trail map that gives users a birds-eye view to nearly 150 trails, trailheads, and waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge.

The map, which became available on the nonprofit conservation group’s website last week, uses Google Earth’s 3-D satellite images to show prospective hikers exactly what kind of terrain they’ll encounter on their outings in the Gorge. Double click on an area of the map, say Eagle Creek, and swoop in like… an eagle… down into the forested canyon. A red squiggly line on the map clearly indicates where the trail is, which changes to a yellow line displaying the trail’s name when a mouse cursors is placed over it. Double clicking on the trail brings up an info box displaying a picture of a section of the trail, the trail number, name, length, name of trailhead, difficulty level, type, and elevation gain. Two links at the bottom of the info box direct users to the Portland Hikers’ and Friends’ websites for more information about the trail.

In addition to the 66 trails that are fully plotted on the 3-D Gorge trail map, icons for 35 trailheads and 46 waterfalls are also on the map, as well as listed alphabetically on the left side of map window. Clicking on any one of them zooms the user right to the feature’s exact location.

Kevin Gorman, executive director of Friends, said the process used to build the map was a group effort and “a labor of love.”

“Hikers walked the trails with GPS units and hikers would give us the GPS data and we would look at the data and check it,” he explained. “Literally hundreds of people have helped on this.”

Ellen Dorsey, a Geographic Information Systems contractor who once interned for Friends when she was a Portland State University student, took the data and dumped it into a GIS program before putting it into Google Earth. Friends member Jeffrey Mills helped make the map “web-friendly,” according to Gorman, and Maegan Jossy, Friends’ outdoor programs coordinator, helped organize the hikers who went and gathered the GPS data. Portland Hikers, an online regional hiking website, partnered with Friends on the project.

He estimated it cost $5,000 to produce — a number he noted would have been four or five times higher if the map had been “professionally done.”

Gorman explained that the map includes only official trails that located on public or trust lands. Updates are also planned that will give real-time data on trail statuses.

“We’re going to try to update when there’s bridge closures and trail closures,” he said. “It won’t be static.”

The Google Earth trail map is only the first part of what Friends is planning though.

Gorman mentioned Friends is currently working to develop a free smartphone app version of the map. In addition to the features available on the Google Earth version, Gorman said he envisions the app will provide information on when salmon are running, when wildflowers are blooming, and where thirsty travelers can stop for a beer when they’re done with their hike or waterfall viewing.

“We’d really like to link the recreation component with the economic component,” he said.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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