Have been doing some future trip planning lately and haven't backpacked since mid July because of either smoky conditions or not being enthused due to the dry brown droughty High Sierra landscapes. However is looking like a couple of us will do 20 Lakes Basin over Labor Day since there is no quota and I know where we can site our camp without endless day hikers tramping nearby.
Besides being a longtime topo map daydreamer, in this era also make considerable use of satellite images and Google Earth 3D. Both the satellite maps on Google Earth and acme.mapper use the same images that are regularly updated. Of course areas of landscapes viewable come from a wide range of imaging dates and those in the Sierra taken during snowy months are rather useless for summer backpacking planning. The Google Earth 3D tool does allow viewing older historical imagery so one can find older dates taken in summer though the older imagery often has poor resolution and weird colors.
One of the trips have been massaging is one from the Mammoth Lakes area over Duck Pass. The current satellite imagery date in that area shows on Google Earth as September 14, 2013. At this time of year the turf high dwarf bilberry, vaccinium caespitosum, and arctic willow, salix arctica, turn colors of reds, purples, yellows, oranges, making for some interesting color in otherwise increasingly drab High Sierra landscapes. To read more about this two species see images and descriptions in this report from last year:
http://www.davidsenesac.com/PioneerB_20 ... _2013.html
Well interestingly the satellite images readily picks up the purple colors of the bilberry and willow rather well so I've been able to figure out many areas where those two species grow without ever having been there. The following image is a screen capture of the north end of Virginia Lake. The JMT / PCT trails are readily visible. All those light purple areas are bilberry. During early to mid summer would be the green turfy grass areas.
Of course on the above link one can zoom in much more and the image quality is noticeable sharper than with Google Earth 3D. One of the most useful things with the satellite images is looking for nice tree areas in timberline areas well away from trails to camp at. The green on the topo tab shows little green, however the satellite shows there are modest areas of trees. It is rather predictable most groups will camp in tree areas near the lake and trail so am certain to be well away from those areas. Well except one day will camp at the south end of Virginia by all the no name ponds that is so far from the trail it won't matter. That end of the lake provides fine unblocked sunset views wnw down canyon. The satellite also shows rock color that is of interest to photographers. Also can find interesting perspectives to climb up to like screen capture of this view of Virgina Lake and the Silver Divide behind . Places I've had to size up by topo analysis alone in the past but now can also view a crude graphic of. The kind of view particularly fit for the huge megapixel multi panel digital stitched images I've recently been making.
When I moved to Saddlebag where we will be in a week, the imagery was from May 26,2014 with areas a useless white. So went back to the a historical date that was July 8, 2012 that showed mid summer conditions. Not many trees there but some nice places to tent out of view down in shallow turfy gully joint cracks. That is a fine area of course for bilberry and willow and hoping all the monsoon weather will have kept those plants more normal in this droughty year.
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