Hiking Upward! [.com]

One of my very favorite web sites is HikingUpward.com, where one can locate and learn about great local day hike venues or more distant, multi-day backpacking trips in the mid-Atlantic region. This free web site contains both Google-based static and interactive trail maps showing the terrain, distance, camping locations, and snapshots along the trails. Even more valuable, each hike includes a link to a PDF file containing a map and trail description in a convenient two-page format. As a result, USGS Topo maps are not necessary, especially for day hikes. Key indicators summarize each hike listing, in a 1-to-5 scale for difficulty, streams, views, solitude, and camping.  User reviews also provide feedback about each hike in a 1-to-5 scale, which may influence your decision to take a hike.  The following screenshot shows the main page highlighting a specific hike in North Carolina:


If you click on the left side map on the main page, the following interactive map appears showing the location of all hikes available. Based on your location, you can quickly find a map that suits your ability and schedule:


Another way to view the hikes is by name, distance, difficulty, streams, views, solitude, and user feedback. These qualities can filter the list using slider controls.


One of my favorite local day hikes is Sugarloaf Mountain. The following page lists many details about the area, with both static and interactive map components. Like many parks, there is more than one trail than the one highlighted in the map and trail description and you can easily length or shorten the hike.


A detailed, interactive Google-based topo map plus user review are displayed at the bottom of the page:


Every hike includes links to printable a PDF trail guide, local weather, and summary of the key hike metadata for length, difficulty, streams, views, solitude, and camping:


Some trail maps are created by Hikingupward.com and some by other land management organizations. Sugarloaf Mountain is owned and managed by Stronghold Inc., and their complete trail map is available fro download from the hike description page:



Nine New Enhancements to ArcGIS Online

The Fall 2015 issue of ArcNews has an interesting roundup of the new features added to ArcGIS Online (AGO) this past summer. The article is available online at: http://www.esri.com/esri-news/arcnews/fall15articles/nine-enhancements-to-arcgis-online. A complete list of changes made is available at ESRI’s web site: http://doc.arcgis.com/en/arcgis-online/reference/whats-new.htm. Its important track changes made to take advantage of new features as they become available as AGO is rapidly evolving. To summarize, the enhancements include:

Smart Mapping Transparency

Automatically adjust the size range so symbols, border widths, and transparencies look better across zoom levels.

Workflows and Design

User enabled editing and viewing of standards-based metadata associated with map elements.

Map Viewer, More Adaptable

The user can now sign into AGO directly from the map viewer so no work will be lost from within the viewer.

3D Scene Viewer Improved

Scenes generated in 3D Viewer can now be embedded in a website or shared via email or social media.

Enhanced Analysis

A new Analysis button located prominently at the top of the map viewer allows the user to interactively perform operations such as create viewsheds, watersheds, and trace downstream.

Feature Layer Updates

A new set of data collection templates are available for created hosted feature layers used with Collector for ArcGIS.

Growing Content

Base maps, The Living Atlas, and imagery services have been updated and expanded.

Amplified Apps

Five new AppBuilder themes and several widgets are now available. New widgets, map tools, and feature actions can be created with the ArcGIS API for JavaScript.

Better Administration

Improved account management tools are available to set user and group permissions, accesses, and sharing rights.

GIS 295 Term Project Blog #1


When taking GIS 203 (Cartography), my final project was creating an orienteering map with GIS Desktop using the International Orienteering Federation (IOF) cartographic standards. The map’s purpose is to teach orienteering to first year Scouts in order to pass specific requirements.  As a result, the map is part of a two-page product containing information about calculating bearings and estimating heights, as well as providing a form to enter control point information.

For GIS 295, I want to explore how to create the same map with the same features using a general purpose web-based map creation tool such as ArcGIS Online and a specialized orienteering map tool called Open Orienteering Map (http://oomap.co.uk/). I plan to devote the three blogs required to describe how the orienteering maps are created with each system – ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS Online, and Open Orienteering Map.

ArcGIS Desktop Base Layer Creation

ArcGIS Desktop provides the user with many tools and detailed controls to create any kind of map. While ArcGIS Online and Open Orienteering Map supply default base maps, in ArcGIS Desktop, one must create their own base map layer with the desired scale.  The following steps are what I did to create the base map on ArcGIS Desktop:

  1. Downloaded the 3-meter National Elevation Dataset and hydrology data for Fairfax County from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Geospatial Data Gateway.
  2. Created an “extent” polygon shape file defining the region of interest around Fraser Preserve located in the western section of Great Falls, Virginia, near the Potomac River.
  3. Created a 3-meter topographic line data set for Fairfax County using the Contour tool from the 3D Analyst toolbox.
  4. Performed an Extract-By-Mask operation to create a 3-meter elevation data layer inside the extent polygon region at Camp Fraser Preserve.
  5. Selected only those water features in the extent using manual polygon deletion operations for the river, with reverse selection for streams and ponds. Removed topographic lines bisecting the ponds and rivers.
  6. Set the fill colors and point size of the above features (topographic lines, streams, ponds, and river) according to IOF cartographic standards.

As a result, the following base map was generated:


ArcGIS Desktop Map Feature Creation

The IOF cartography standard stresses land features in order to provide the user with as much information as possible to aid in navigation. In the following chart, one can see there are several categories of open land with type and variety of vegetation specified. Water and marshes also have many categories to help the user determine if any impassible obstacles are present:


Land cover, water features, trails, roads, buildings, and course control points are the main map components. I discovered that openstreetmap.org contained the trail used for the course, and I could accurately free-hand sketch the trail to generate a polygon, which was added to the project as a shape file.  I also created shape files for the roads, control points, and buildings with the same process:


The IOF also defines orienteering course control points as a purple colored circle containing a dot. The course start and end points use a triangular purple symbol. None of ESRI’s libraries contained these symbols, and as a result, I created it with the Desktop Symbol Property Editor:


Control point information and additional text was created with Microsoft Publisher (for maximum format control) resulting in a final two-page PDF document stapled front-to-back on a rigid piece of 8.5 x 11 inch cardboard:


The following sources were used to define map elements and content:

  • Steven Boga, Orienteering: The Sport of Navigating with Map & Compass, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, copyright 1997, Chapter 3 Map and Compass, pp 23-67.
  • Bjorn Hjellstrom, Be Expert with Map & Compass, The Complete Orienteering Handbook, 2nd Ed., Macmillan General Reference, New York, NY, copyright 1994, Part 1, Discovery Fun with Maps Alone, pp 9-61. Part 2, Exploration, Fun with Compass Alone, pp 63-104.
  • The Boy Scout Handbook, 11th Edition, copyright 1998, Chapter 5, First Class Scout, pp 111-125.
  • Camp Fraser Preserve at Openstreetmap.org web site: http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=17/39.04637/-77.30559, [24 October 2015].
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Geospatial Data Gateway: https://gdg.sc.egov.usda.gov/, [24 October 2015].
  • International Orienteering Federation map symbols: http://www.maprunner.co.uk/simon/mapsymbols.jpg, [24 October 2015].
  • Orienteering USA: http://www.us.orienteering.org/new-o/beginners-guide/maps, [24 October 2015].

First week, CDC Influenza map

Check out the map below.  It looks very quiet across the US except for localized outbreaks in Oklahoma.  As we discussed in last week’s class, the CDC is one of the earliest social media input data map generators.

According to the CDC web site, many data sources are used:

The U.S. influenza surveillance system is a collaborative effort between CDC and its many partners in state, local, and territorial health departments, public health and clinical laboratories, vital statistics offices, healthcare providers, clinics, and emergency departments. Information in five categories is collected from nine different data sources that allow CDC to:

  • Find out when and where influenza activity is occurring
  • Track influenza-related illness
  • Determine what influenza viruses are circulating
  • Detect changes in influenza viruses
  • Measure the impact influenza is having on hospitalizations and deaths in the United States


Dynamic, Static Maps from the Washington Post web site


The Washington Post web site contains a great example of both static and dynamic maps in an article used to display US energy sources (coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar) for 2015. “Mapping How the United States Generates its Electricity” was created July 31, 2015 by John Muyskens, Dan Keating and Samuel Granadosand and accessible using the following link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/power-plants/.

The light gray, dynamic US map contains geographically distributed, colored coded (by power source) circles indicating the generating plant sizes in megawatts, which are defined by two legends. Moving the mouse across the states displays a pop-up, numeric list of power sources by state.  This map gives the reader the overall distribution of all generating facilities with the color coded sources showing a pattern of predominate use.

A second dynamic visualization tool allows the reader to select a power source and display a state-by-state comparison using a 50-state, color coded, bar chart in descending order. This shows which sources are dominate across each state in terms of percentage electricity generated, not from a geographic perspective.


A series of seven maps show the distribution of electrical generating capacity by source with additional details provided by an accompanying paragraph. Using the same gray background and color coded symbology, these maps show in detail the geographic distribution of power source.  As a result, patterns such as solar powered plants mostly in the southwest are clearly evident, but there are a surprising large number present in the northeast. The adjacent text discusses general power source specific generating details and trends.  This combination of static and dynamic maps allows the user to get a very detailed assessment of US electrical generating capacity.

Mystery of the Missing Base Map Data!

After we all had trouble loading base map data in class #2, I tried with my HP Windows 7 laptop at home with no luck using IE and Firefox (via GIS server) after logging into nova-cc.maps.arcgis.com.

This week I was in a training class at the AWS Herndon office using a Windows 10 on an Intel NUC PC with Chrome, Firefox, and MS Edge (new Win 10 browser replacement for IE). I was able to log in with all browsers, but could not load any base map or layers with any of them!

Given the different Internet network links and browsers I’ve tried, I believed I was doing something wrong loading this content into a map! I’ve got to review the videos to review the procedure. There was no Internet delay at home or at AWS like we experienced at class.

On Saturday morning, after breakfast, I was in the kitchen with my first generation iPad, which I use for reading e-books and web surfing. I went to arcgis.com because I couldn’t recall the NOVA-specific URL. To my surprise, a default base map appeared after clicking the Map link! I could display any base map selection and even apply additional layers from the “Search” for layers. I was doing all this while not signed in, just from arcgis.com.

After trying this on my iPad, I duplicated the above with my HP laptop on arcgis.com. As soon as I logged in with the ID and password set for Nova-cc.maps.arcgis.com, the base map disappeared and I couldn’t select any other. As a result, I believe the base map problem lies with the NOVA-specific version of arcgis.com.

After logging out and going back to arcgis.com, I created a simple base map and saved it to my account name. I could then log into my NOVA account, recall the map, change base maps and add layers. We may have to save a “dummy” map to prime the account with some data that allows us to create a real map!

Assignment 1

My name is Paul Devine and a graduate of the NOVA GIS certificate program. NOVA has been my main resource of continuing education and I’ve earned over 60 credits over 20+ years taking programming, database, and networking courses. I’ve worked as a software engineer for over 30 years and during that time, raised four children (two boys and two girls) with my wife Jill. During that time I’ve worked for several companies including Denro, TASC, SAIC, and CTA Space Systems.

This picture was taken for the company newsletter

The picture above is a me at 25 years old at my first job working for Denro in standing front of the air traffic control communications system racks to be shipped to Hill AFB.  The scope-looking device on the right is one of two Tektronix logic analyzers the company owned and used to debug the Z80 assembly language running on the system’s distributed processor boards. This picture was taken for the monthly newsletter.  As an entry level software engineer, I learned about and practiced system engineering processes equivalent to CMMI level 3 before we had the terminology describing as such.

According to ESRI, a Geographic Information System lets us visualize, analyze, and interpret data to understand relationships, patterns, and trends.

I was part of a software development team at SAIC maintaining a GIS extension called GeoRover (www.georover.com), an analyst productivity package for ArcGIS Desktop. The extension uses a COM object interface to access the ArcGIS SDK which performs the actual mapping of specified data.