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Hiking all the trails, Sierra?

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Hiking all the trails, Sierra?

Postby markskor » Fri Apr 17, 2015 3:52 pm

Interesting...
In my daily check of new members - checking possible spam, etc., I see a new member joined recently with her link to an ambitious undertaking. The site says the Sierra Mapping Project will be conducted over a 5 year period for the entirety of the Sierra trail system.
http://www.sierramappingproject.org.
"The Sierra Mapping Project will be led and conducted by Sara Fry, an avid outdoor enthusiast and documenter... Sara is hiking all the trails in California's iconic High Sierra."

I have to applaud the dream but, after 40+ years of backpacking, (and do get out some), haven't yet seen 10% of what my Sierra has to offer. Maybe our own Rogue might chime in here...
Can it be done?
Mountainman who swims with trout



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Re: Hiking all the trails, Sierra?

Postby SSSdave » Fri Apr 17, 2015 4:27 pm

Here is the explanation:

sierramappingproject.org

Don't buy her reasons though each has a measure of validity. She sounds like someone wanting to make a website for that content or sell guidebooks as though it is a useful need. It is true that it would be useful to GPS track all the trails because those shown on USGS are rather inaccurate at more detailed scales. I've complained about that herein and on other boards for years but in any case not a big deal. Go search my inputs on summitpost.org for Shepherd Pass Trail to see what I'm talking about. The vague trails drawn on topos for the most part have little effect on experienced backpacker's trips. If she wants to recreate updated sets of topo areas like Tom Harrison started to do with accurate maps fine. Heck I've been making some custom maps myself for fun from the USGS topos that are much better than the topos and someday may put them into the public light.

Trails in the High Sierra were already pounded by the Wilderness Press army decades ago. Since then there have been numbers of other guidebook hiking books. Do we really need any more guidebooks or websites with trail descriptions and pictures than already exist even if some are dated? Heck these days we have Google Earth and that has all those Panoramio images viewable. Next thing will be someone with a great idea to do the same for all the cross country areas. Yukkk! The advantage of just letting we myriad ants visiting the Sierra over years adding to that is likely to result in a far more thorough image base than even what a few dozen enthusiasts could do alone. Simply is way too huge a region.

And last on the matter of information in these areas, too much information on wilderness people visit to explore, ought not be a positive goal. It can make sense on the big thru hiking trails but...PULease people we don't need same for all trails! That takes some of the adventure out of the experience. For the same reason I as a photographer strongly dislike growing numbers of photography guide books where someone interested in selling that information, hikes into to scenic areas and comes out with some guide full of GPS points to "HELP" others finding locations. Consider what it may be like decades from now when everything has been documented down to a hole in every gnat's a$$?

If that happened I'll bet many of us would push a button to remove all information and technology bringing everything back to the Stone Age on the planet.
Last edited by ERIC on Fri May 08, 2015 9:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: edited to remove link since it appears there has been no effort by sierramappingproject.org to reciprocate.
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Re: Hiking all the trails, Sierra?

Postby RoguePhotonic » Fri Apr 17, 2015 5:18 pm

Well it depends on where the whole thing takes place? The entire Sierra or just the high Sierra and what do you consider the high Sierra?

I'm sure someone that can do big miles the whole summer can pull it off but I can see a ton of back tracking and over lapping taking place. There are dozens of trails that lead to a single location and end requiring you to hike In and back out. When your trying to get a detail log It makes things harder also.

Personally I think it's a waste of precious time up there even though it's really not.
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Re: Hiking all the trails, Sierra?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Apr 17, 2015 7:47 pm

Oh no, more "connect the dot" hikers! The "good" may be that a survey of trail conditions may be useful to the Forest Service and Park Service since they hardly have the funding to do this themselves. The "Sierra Trail System" is more complicated to define than it appears at first. Historical trails no longer maintained? Well-worn "use-trails"? All trails marked on USGS maps? There is a lot more to a trail survey than a bunch of GPS waypoints. I hope this person knows the finer points of trail building and maintenance so the "condition" is more than an opinion. It would be very helpful if there were definite objective criteria. You ask five people about one trail and you will get five different answers! One person's "rocky tread" is another persons "no problem". One "point-in-time" observation is also problematic. Conditions change over time. Case in point - Shepherd Pass trail wash-out. Ambitious project, but a lot of forethought needs to be put into the project if results will mean anything. Would be great if the results were digitally compatible with the USFS and USGS GIS systems.

Compared to most mountain ranges, the Sierra is already well (to the point of overly) described. As far as taking the adventure out of backpacking, nothing says you have to access any information. It sort of reminds me of the debate over adding new bolts to rock climbs. Some say it degrades the "purity" of the first ascent. If you want to keep to the original purity, simply do not clip the new bolts! If you want to keep your backpacking "pure", then simply do not access the new information. In fact, nothing says you cannot just hike in the mountains, with no map, no GPS, no compass, no watch just like the first explorers.

As for Google Earth - I do not know if it is just my computer, but I was looking at the cliffs down Goddard Creek yesterday - the drop from Tunemah Lake - and there was this huge V-cut horizontally across the slope - the stream goes down into the chasm and UP out the other side! A real glitch. No matter how much I study Google Earth, when I get on the ground it is WAY different. Your on-ground view is so different. I really find old fashioned topo maps more useful. But Google Earth sure is fun!
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Re: Hiking all the trails, Sierra?

Postby ndpanda » Fri Apr 17, 2015 10:01 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:In fact, nothing says you cannot just hike in the mountains, with no map, no GPS, no compass, no watch just like the first explorers.


True enough, but if that's your intent you're probably better off keeping it to yourself in this era of online communication. I joined HST a few weeks after Rogue and I recall all the hell he was given for his "irresponsibility" as he planned his summer in the Sierra. I took off from Yosemite on a similar jaunt in my early 20s with an old 15" Mt Goddard quad in my pack that I had inked with every alpine route that looked like it might go. Some did, some didn't, some scared me half to death whichever way they turned out. But it was the pre-nanny state era and it never occurred to me or any of the people like Doug Robinson who urged me to go for it that I ought to be worrying my head about society at large or SAR volunteers or anything else but pushing my limits and learning what the Range of Light had to teach me.

This mapping project is really emblematic of a change that's been underway for a while now in the way people perceive the wilderness experience. Wilderness, as defined by the Wilderness Act, is country "untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." But there's a kind of virtual trammeling of wilderness these days that's becoming ever more pervasive. To each their own, of course; what's insidious to the few is clearly virtuous to the many.
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Re: Hiking all the trails, Sierra?

Postby SierraMappingProject » Sat Apr 18, 2015 12:49 am

Hey folks, I love the chatter and everyone has valid points to many of which I feel the same about also. First off, my Internet went Down and went be fixed till next week. Please excuse any typos as I'm writing from a very tiny phone screen at a trail crew leader training.

I'll try and address your points as best as possible from this phone. Pardon me if I miss a few. And I highly apologize for any typos!

With respect to "Wilderness Character..." I am not a "connect the dots hiker." I thrive, and at most at home, when there is no trail and I'm bushwhacking. I adore the wild part of nature and am wholeheartedly the biggest fan of routes and cross-country travel. Is this undertaking detrimental to wilderness character? Certainly not. These trails already exist. The information for them is on maps. But the main reason for this project is to collect CURRENT data on these trails. For example, I was the first person to thru-hike the San Joaquin River Trail. The trail exists on maps, but when I contacted the SJRTC president even he didn't have accurate info on this beautiful trail. I was told it was 73 miles when in actuality it's 120-150 (depending on if you road walk or do some ridiculously gnarly bushwhacks). When I went to the forest service to obtain maps I was sent up the chain multiple times only to be given maps that were terrible at best. Now I'm not blaming the forest service. Their work is invaluable and I'm very grateful for all their efforts to protect our wildness. But because of budget cuts, jobs dissappearing, and a compete lack of funding they've been unable to do their jobs (through no fault of their own). When I got to Devils Postpile (the eastern terminus of the SJRT) I was shocked at the lack of information and how what little info i did aquire was horribly inaccurate. The SJRT is by no means an isolated incident. I encountered the same during a backpacking trip up near Mineral King this January.

The info that exists is so outdated that trails which have been rerouted years ago have not changed on the maps. This ends up deturring the average hiker who IS out there to hike a trail, not a route. And since most of the info (if not all) comes directly from our topos it's imperative that this be current and accurate.

This project is not about making money. The thought is laughable especially since this info will be FREE for the public. Not sure how that could have been misconstrued. Furthermore, I think we can all agree that if anyone wanted to make money hiking is the least viable option for this.

As far as knowing how to label trails, I couldn't agree with you more! I worked on a trail crew in Alaska for 4 months... and I've been on countless trips in the lower 48 scouting, building, and maintaining new trails. I'm currently at a trail crew leader training so I can lead my own trips and teach others the skills and values of our natural land. It is imperative that these trails be labeled correctly seeing as everyone has their own personal definition. They will be classified under the guidelines that I've been taught by the forest service and state parks. Very valid point and I'm happy to see you looking out for the integrity of our trail system.

Someone brought up a great point of the spur trails being out and back. Yes, you're very right. There WILL be a lot of backtracking and redundancy, good thing I enjoy being out there.

Someone was asking if this is even possible and the answer is most certainly yes. Last year alone I hiked close to 4000 miles. .. within a 7 month period. Like I said, I love to hike.

As for people worrying about the trails getting "more populatity" and interfering with the very reason we love to be in the backcountry, I respectfully disagree. Need I remind you this info already exists, despite the huge descripency in accuracy? I'm going to be getting an accurate read on not only the tracks, but also the trail conditions so hopefully our beloved trail crews will be able to get out there and do what they love... Which is artfully creating trails for the enjoyment and recreational use for the people (us). In addition, I doubt they'll be getting much popularity from regular Joe's who are new to the scene. Those folks will still be out on sections like Yosemite and the JMT. By social conditioning, I doubt they'll want to be using these lesser known trails purely put of this "fear " that is so often associated with nature. I believe the main people who will utilize this info are folks like you and I who love backpacking and (whether you want to admit it) ARE looking for info on lesser known trails. Now yes, I'm sure their will be a few that are influenced by this project and will utilize these detailed findings... and that's by no means a bad thing. Good I hope they do. Nature is for everyone to enjoy. And I hope they take away a wonderful experience and get more folks out. We all know the healing power of the backcountry. I would NEVER want to take away something so beautiful as that by discouraging people to hike OUR trails.

Need I also say that the forest service is required to do this exact same thing, but because of lack of funding they've been regrettably unable to perform this requirement.

I have a good working connection with the FS and my findings will most certainly go directly to them as well. This info will benefit many people.

And, bottom line, if you don't want to have accurate descriptions or trail condition info then by all means you're not required to. If you thrive in the unknown then the Sierra Mapping Project shouldn't interfere with that endeavor at all. Just don't use the info. It's as simple as that.

I'm sure I missed a few points... but it's late and my day starts bright and early tomorrow morning... and to be truthful typing this all from a phone sucks.

I love that you're genuinely looking out for the integrity of our natural land and the Wilderness experience. That brings be great joy. I hope that cleared up some questions regarding the Sierra Mapping Project... Which is the HIGH Sierra

Sara "BloodBank " Fry
Founder of Sierra Mapping Project
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Re: Hiking all the trails, Sierra?

Postby freestone » Sat Apr 18, 2015 6:44 am

Good luck with your project Sara! I'm sure the inventory could use some sprucing up and It would be interesting to hear about the tools and instruments I trust you will be using. This was done several years ago in the San Rafael Wilderness by a gentleman who walked every trail on the Forest Service map with his dog and a measuring wheel. The final product was a beautiful map with waypoints and milages of the region that has since become the goto map for most everyone who visits that region.

I have never had many issues with Sierra trails but for me, trails in general, always seem way longer than what they say on the map, and I have gotten confused in the moment on many occasions, but always thought it was just me or my unsteady hand using the Topo! Mapper, not the historic map or trail builder.

As a side note to this topic, like other Members, I have also noticed this is at least the third post by folks who are starting, or have finished some sort of improvement to what we already have today. Walter Starr did all this in the 1930s with a catalog of all the trails and most "knapsack" routes from Yosemite to Whitney and I suspect it will continue to be these trails that are rehashed into new formats. I think he wisely excluded many routes from his guide so that the reader could still enjoy the thrill of discovery.
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Re: Hiking all the trails, Sierra?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Apr 18, 2015 11:38 am

Sara - I was in no way implying that you were a "connect the dot" backpacker. But no matter who puts out a set of GPS coordinates, It enables "connect the dots" backpacking. Very glad to hear you have trail building experience. I might add, that be careful about specifying campsites. I suspect that much of the bunching-up on the JMT is due to the detailed guides out there that plan out every day exactly. This is a complicated issue; is it better to have established campsites and limit impact to a few locations (which is detrimental to each individual's wilderness experience) or spread it out (which results in more disturbed acres)? Does more information result in more use? Is it wise to take away the uncertainty for non-maintained trails so that more people use them? Will more use improve the trails or tear them apart even more? If you have done a lot of trail building you probably have a good eye to evaluate what increased use may do to any given section of trail. And there are trails that probably should not be designated as trails; an example is the Jigsaw Pass "trail" shown on some USGS 7.5 minute maps.

Are you going to release data as you go, or wait until the project is entirely done before releasing information?
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Re: Hiking all the trails, Sierra?

Postby ERIC » Sat Apr 18, 2015 11:47 am

Thanks for the clarifications, Sara!
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Re: Hiking all the trails, Sierra?

Postby schmalz » Tue Apr 21, 2015 10:37 am

The negativity in this thread is discouraging. I take issue with the mentality that we should try to discourage people from going into the backcountry or taking interest in it. The "virtual trammeling of wilderness" that was mentioned is called social media, get used to it.

As someone who is from a younger generation than the majority of members here, I think that you have to realize that a lot of today's youth was not brought up with a lot of exposure to nature, and with the onslaught of technology, there isn't a lot of interest in getting out in the wilderness among today's youth. Sure, there is an explosion of people hiking the JMT and PCT, but outside of that I think there is a diminishing interest.

Let me point you to this article: http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/19/us/im-nat ... -spurlock/

Giving people access to the beauty of the Sierra will only make them more interested in preserving it. Trying to selfishly keep the area for own enjoyment serves nothing.
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Re: Hiking all the trails, Sierra?

Postby SSSdave » Tue Apr 21, 2015 2:03 pm

Hello Sara,

Thanks for your clarifications. I went back to your website and carefully read your content on all tabs. Before making my above post had just quickly read your project and need pages. This section is what had me wondering what your project was about:

Highly detailed data/guide books will be published according to regional boundaries. Books will include maps, tracks, waypoints, elevation profiles, water sources, and a summary of all loops, spurs, and thru-hiking options available in said regions. Guide and Datebooks will be made available to the mass public every calendar off-season. In addition to hard copies, a phone application and downloadable track will be made available for purchase based on length of trail and region.

That in isolation sounded like another set of guide books and as noted there are already many including a fair number of more recent books as can be found by searching with "high sierra" at amazon books. However upon reading your bio and additional information on your site I can see your vision is different and that springs from your recent experiences and genuine enthusiasm for these natural places, something many of on this board share with you. It isn't that your description lacks clarity but rather without looking at what you are trying to do more thoroughly, some like this person may at first tend to raise flags and not agree. Heck at this point you are merely embarking on the project without backers or an outdoor book publisher versus my suspicion that this was a new angle from a publisher.

As for the need, although as noted we experienced enthusiasts probably will be fine with information sources already available, I do understand your arguments when reflecting on those who know little, especially those just coming of age and new to the outdoors. And more importantly comprehensive trail information will indeed be useful to the national forests who we might expect in near decades will not be funded to ever do any of this themselves. By having an inventory of trail conditions, it will make their planning and prioritizing of what might be done more likely. Some of the information will necessarily be redundant versus sources already available so your task will be in part to present information in new ways.

Good numbers of more experienced enthusiasts may negatively view the way new users tend to rely on GPS information so that is but one example of what your group needs to consider carefully. For example if you provide extensive GPS waypoint information for every camp spot, view point, every image along the big thru trails, no one will complain because that has already been happening, is likely public in some way, and is understandable. However to do likewise on all other trails, even those lightly used raises flags and gets closer to my noted fear that it won't be long before someone thinking in terms of making a few bucks will start doing so in non-trail areas. Another issue is by being thorough even about more remote pristine trail locations, one can expect that will tend to locally impact some special places. That is because there are of course many outstanding locations already on trails that have simply never been placed in guidebook pages because those writing those earlier books well understood the power of what simply showing a picture can do. For instance a picture of some beautiful tarn in a pocket meadow with craggy peaks behind is likely to invite legions of novice photographers. In my own body of work I tend to identify such places vaguely like "Evolution Creek drainage", leaving it up to individuals to explore and find wonders themselves. The Wilderness Press originally included information about fish abundance and size in high country lakes. After a couple decades it was not surprising to find some of those lakes no longer containing trout of legendary sizes. So those providing information bear responsibility. Reading your information, I now expect those concerns are in good hands.

Best of luck.

David
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Re: Hiking all the trails, Sierra?

Postby sparky » Tue Apr 21, 2015 5:31 pm

Mind if I rant?

As someone who is from a younger generation than the majority of members here, I think that you have to realize that a lot of today's youth was not brought up with a lot of exposure to nature, and with the onslaught of technology, there isn't a lot of interest in getting out in the wilderness among today's youth.


Schmaltz, with all due respect in my personal opinion you are a little off the mark. For one, there will always be an interest in preserving and exploring nature with or without the internet, tech, guides, hell even maps. Just looking at the mountains stirs the soul. Because it is a real experience, and the internet is just words and pictures on a screen, and simply BECAUSE there is a mystery. I could just as easily surmise that "virtual trammeling" is indeed just that as the mystery and discovery instills a respect not found otherwise. Using social media, and the internet is definitely a double edged sword, and something I have conflicting opinions on. Sometimes knowledge is power, and sometimes no knowledge is power. Not knowing what lies beyond is powerful and a feeling that is dying in the information age. All things in moderation at the appropriate time, in the appropriate place, ya dig?

I agree with ssdave:
That takes some of the adventure out of the experience.

Consider what it may be like decades from now when everything has been documented down to a hole in every gnat's a$$?


When I want to replace a flywheel, I need step by step instructions with pictures and even video of some jerk in his garage. When I want to disappear into the mountains I do not need step by step instructions, no pictures, and no video of some jerk in his cuban pants.

Anyway, I am throwing the thread off track. Carry on [-X
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