Friday, July 3, 2015

Map Making Tutorial

tutorial map

I’m still unhappy with the changes that Google has made to their maps however it looks like the new maps are here to stay. Since I’ve had a few requests for a tutorial I’ve decided to go ahead and make one. Hopefully if the maps change again the tutorial will still make sense. It's pretty easy to make a map once you know the steps.

If you don't already have a Google account you'll have to sign up for one which is simple. You'll automatically get a Gmail account.  Just ignore it if you don't want to use it. You can also sign up for  Google+ but that's not necessary for map making.

Once you have a Google account, open a Google search page in your browser. Click on the grid in the upper right corner.


Click on the maps icon. map2

Click on the search bar.


Click on the My Maps bar that drops down.


Click on Create.


You’re now ready to start adding placemarks! There are many ways to add placemarks. You can add a placemark by clicking on the placemark icon under the search bar and then clicking on a location on the map. You can click on a labeled location on the map and then on Add to Map when the window pops up. If  you have an address, enter that in the search bar. If you have the name of a park or place, enter that. If you have the GPS co-ordinates, enter them. If you just know the general area ( this is what I use most of the time for entering boondocking locations that we’ve found as we travel) enter the nearest town. I’m going to make a map for Quartzsite, Arizona where the yearly Rubber Tramp Rendezvous is held.


Entering Quartzsite, Arizona in the search bar zooms the map into the correct area and adds a marker.


To make a marker permanent double click on it to bring up this window then click Add to Map.


This marker is just a random location in Quartzsite and I want it to mark a specific location, the Big Tent Show. I don’t know the address but I know where it is from previous years. To find the location I want to look at satellite view. Click on the down arrow on the left side of Base Map.


Click on satellite view.


Zoom in if necessary and drag the marker to the correct location. To get it really accurate I often use street view. That works best in cities but it involves opening another map so I’ll get to that later in the tutorial.


I’ve also marked some other locations. Silly Al’s Pizza by using the address, 175 W Main St, Quartzsite, AZ 85346 ; the RTR by using the GPS co-ordinates supplied by Bob Wells on his blog, 33°39’03.0″N   114°08’45.4″W ; and the RV dump station and water fill at Rose RV Park on Kuehn.



With the Quartzsite Big Tent marker in the right location I’m now ready to add some details. This is one of the great things about making your own maps. You can rename your placemarks, add personal notes, clickable links and photographs. To do this click on the little edit pencil.


  Now you can add information!


  I’ve changed the placemark name, changed the placemark icon, added a description and a link which just requires copying and pasting the website link to make a clickable link. One little quirk in the description window is that it does not allow you to skip down to the next line by pressing enter. If you want to add another line press control and enter at the same time. Don’t forget to save your changes!

To change the placmark icon hover over the place name on the left hand menu. Click on the little paint can.


You’ll be able to change the shape and color. Click on More Icons to open another pane with many more icons. You can also import your own. Strangely there isn’t a tent icon on the new maps.


Photographs are very helpful but if you want to add one of your own you'll need to upload it to a  photo sharing site first. I use Photobucket.  

After you've loaded your photos click on the one that you want, then click on the "Direct" link to copy the address for your map.

To add a photograph onto a map location click on the little pencil to edit. Then click on the camera icon in the right corner.

I haven’t found a way to add more than one photo to a placemark window.


This screen will pop up. Click on Image URL to load your own photograph or if you don’t want to use your own you can load one from the internet.


That’s it! You can add 2000 placemarks on each layer of the map. I don’t use or understand layers so if you want to use them you’re on own. :-D Layers may be very beneficial if you have many placemarks and you want to have a map layer that shows just one category such as WiFi locations, truck stops, libraries, campgrounds, etc. You can put each category on it’s own layer and look at each layer separately or all of the layers at once. You can have 10 layers total on a map.

Name your map and bookmark it to make it easy to find. When you open it again you may have to click on Open Original Map if you want to add new locations or edit old ones.


Before you do that, though, there are two very useful features on the preview map that aren’t on My Maps. Click the little guy in the bottom right corner and drop him anywhere on the map to get street view. Streets that light up blue have street view. Walk around on street view to find the exact spot where you want to place your mark.

Right click on an icon then click on What’s Here to get GPS co-ordinates. They’ll appear under the search bar.


  I don’t use the Draw a Line or Add Directions features but you may find them useful so start a map and play around with it for awhile. I’m not using the maps to their full potential but they work very well for my purpose. Let me know if any of this is confusing or if you find mistakes. Have fun!

Note; If you’re in Lite mode some or all of the tutorial instructions may not work.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks-General Information


  Kootenay, Yoho, Banff and Jasper, sharing borders, form a contiguous park of mountains, valleys, glaciers, lakes and outstanding scenery. It’s such a unique place and in some ways very different from US parks so I decided more information would be helpful to other visitors.

  You must have a park pass if you’re stopping at any overlook, picnic ground or campground in the parks. You also need one to drive the Icefields Parkway and the Bow Valley Parkway, a scenic secondary road between Banff and Lake Louise. Fees are per person and per day so if you’re visiting for at least seven days or will be visiting other parks in Canada it’s economical to buy an annual Discovery Pass.

  The two west to east routes, Hwy 1 and Hwy 16, follow the train routes through the mountains and are two lane, high speed roads. Since these routes are also the best ways to get from the west coast to Alberta there’s a lot of truck traffic. The 55 mph speed limit makes it hard to sightsee. There are plenty of passing lanes and turnoffs on Hwy 1 but not as many on Hwy 16. The Icefield Parkway speed varies from 35 - 55 mph and since commercial trucks are prohibited it’s a much more relaxing drive. It’s about 180 miles from Banff to Jasper on the parkway with few places to get fuel so fill up before starting. The parkway has no cell service but phones are located along the road.


   We didn’t receive maps or pamphlets of the type passed out in US national parks. Poor signage adds to the problem so don’t fail to stop in at a visitor center to pick up some maps and brochures or download them from the national park website - Here. It’s hard to spot turnoffs and the kilometer markers on the maps are a real help. The visitor centers are small and don’t explain the parks well.

  We visited in the middle of June, just before school let out for the summer, and had no difficulty getting campsites without making reservations. Some of the campgrounds were not opened yet so check the schedules before setting out. The accessible campsites are not truly accessible, lacking pavement, extra width, high fire rings and good pathways to the restrooms.

   Very few of the trails are accessible. Some of this is due to the terrain but accessibility does not seem to be promoted in the parks. For instance the short, gravel trail at Howe Pass (76 km from Lake Louise) is very accessible and leads to an incredibly beautiful view but it’s not really marked as a great overlook and certainly not as an accessible one. We had it all to ourselves. Other people pulled into the lot to use the restrooms and left without even noticing the trail.


The weather was very nice during our visit with temperatures in the 60s and 70s. Several days were cloudy with some rain but the rain did not last long and the weather could change by the hour.


  Although the parks are promoted as great for viewing wildlife we saw very little except for birds, ground squirrels and a couple of tagged elk grazing along the roadway.

  I highly recommend visiting these parks. They can be easily included as part of an Alaska trip and are well worth the extra effort.  Parks



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Lake Annette Loop Trail


   The 1.5 mile trail is completely paved but one section is crumbling away. If you’re concerned about the condition of the trail go in a clockwise direction from the picnic ground parking lots. You’ll hit the bad section first and the rest of the trail is fine. There are a few slight hills.

  RVs will fit in the parking areas if parked parallel to the road. Trail



Jasper Yellowhead Museum

  The town of Jasper was founded in 1913 to service the newly built Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. Today it’s a jumping off point for the Icefields Parkway and a connection to the national parks but it’s much quieter and more laid back than Banff.

  The museum covers the history of area with artifacts from the First Nations people and early settlers.


  Everything is accessible.

  The parking lot is large enough for any RV.  Museum

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Icefields Parkway- Banff & Jasper NP


  The Icefields Parkway, which connects Lake Louise to Jasper, travels though 142 miles of beautiful scenery with many places to stop and admire the view or take a hike. The signage is not very good so pick up a map or download this one before you start the trip.

   Of course the rugged terrain limits wheelchair accessibility but we stopped at as many places as possible to check them out. Herbert Lake was our first stop where we found a steep path and no wheelchair access. Next was the Crowfoot Glacier viewpoint. A large parking lot with room for RVs provides a good view of the three toes of the glacier without even leaving your vehicle.


  Continue along the road to the accessible overlook of Bow Lake and Bow Glacier.


  Drive a bit more to the turnoff to Bow Summit and park in the accessible lot.  A very steep, paved path leads to a great overlook.


  Howe Pass has an accessible, flat, gravel path that makes a loop along a cliff with wonderful views of the valley below. The parking lot is large enough for RVs.



The parking lot view of Bridal Veil Falls is blocked by a large berm of dirt.

  The main attraction of the Parkway is the Columbia Icefield which covers 125 square miles and is the largest ice field in the Rocky Mountains.  We were expecting a nice national park visitor center with exhibits about the glaciers and were disappointed to find that the fancy Icefield Centre is owned by Brewster Tours and it’s sole purpose is to sell tickets for special buses that travel out on the glacier.  Park in the large accessible lot for great views of the glacier. Two smaller lots on the other side of the highway provide access to a short, non-accessible trail that leads to the foot of the glacier. The smaller lots fill so there may not always be room for RVs.


  Tangle Falls is right along the road. A small parking lot is located on the opposite side and is not large enough for long RVs.


   A short, very steep trail leads to the viewpoint of Sunwapta Falls. The parking lot has room for RVs.


The Athabasca Falls trail has many steps and is not accessible. We walked/rolled along Hwy 93A and viewed the falls from the bridge. A small pull off  where RVs will fit is located at the south end of the bridge. The main parking lot has RV spaces.


  Our first night on the parkway we stayed at Wilcox Creek Campground near the icefields. Some of the sites have nice views of the mountains. Most of the sites are small and the bends in the roads are tight. Larger RVs should stay at the Icefield Centre RV camping area which is just a large asphalt lot where day visitor also park.


The next night we stayed outside of Jasper at Wapiti Campground which has a lot of sites and room for any size RV. Most of the electric sites were filled so reservations might be necessary if you want electricity.  Parkway