Friday, June 25, 2010

USGS Map Waypoints: California

Ok call me obsessive-compulsive. Tell me something that I don't know. And there may be a bit of some autism thrown in for good measure.

I've already released two massive Google Earth files containing the MASSIVE USGS "Features File" database for Utah and Nevada. If I thought that they were an effort – this one was (these one's were) mind-bending!

It must be something like wanting to chomp down on your dog's chew toy when you were trying to cut your own wisdom teeth – the pain of chomping your your gum somehow is perversely satisfying and feels like it "should be," if for no other reason than just to get it over with!


First, of all the MS Excel spreadsheet program completely choked when I tried to upload the California Files from the USGS. The only way I could get it in was to split the file into two pieces.

Second, then the auto coding program I tried to use choked on both of the split sections so I had to run each of the 58 California counties separately and into its own individual file.

Third, then Google Earth choked on all the code for the 115,594 waypoints (not even counting the several thousand which started in another state [i.e. rivers, streams] and ended in California. So, I had to code additional macros, and manually create a common style sheet and strip out all superfluous code.

Of course, even with all the splitting, the goal was still to be able to eventually combine the links to each separate county back into one master state file, like I had already done for Nevada and Utah. Not gonna happen!

The largest I could do was to split the state into three separate files for: North, Central and South. Therefore, the files available for download with this post are:
The current version of Google Earth will, in fact, load all three files in at once. However, if you do like I did, to obtain the above screen-capture, and turn all the county network links on at once just for grins, believe me after a few moves you will need to break out the Motrin for all the sympathy pains you will be feeling for the poor thing!

How To Use The Files:

However, next time you want to plan an ATV or SUV ride off road in California load up the appropriate USGS Feature Map into Google Earth. Then zoom into the general area where you want to be riding.

Still round the corner there may wait, A new road or a secret gate.”J. R. R. Tolkien
You should begin seeing the county labels in Google Earth as you get closer, that way you can selectively turn on that particular county in the file. Click the box next to the county name in the list on the left of the screen. After it loads, you should see up to several thousand icons all over the area you want to ride.

When you hover over any particular one it will enlarge and the name will appear. If you click on the icon a description box will appear which will display its Full Name, Latitude, Longitude, County and USGS Map that it appears on among other things. If the feature sounds like it might be interesting, just try entering its name into your search engine of choice. You may be suprised at all the background and photos you will find.

Additionally, if you already know the name of the Feature and it's approximate location, open the county and decide which of the USGS categories it might be in. All the Features are listed alphabetically, within Categories, within County and by State.

And thirdly, if you can develop a little bit of skill with Google Earth's abilities you can easily create a new folder in the menu list, then drag and drop any of the placemarks you want into it.

You can then "save as" the folder into a new file under your own label which you can open any time you want to view the area you will be riding. Just make sure you "save as" a .kmZ type of file so that it will maintain the icon graphics, formatting and links. Otherwise they'll be a bit hard to read.

Of course, once you have taken the ride you will also be able to upload your GPS track (see previous posts) into this same folder, type descriptions into the "properties" of the waypoints and Voila – you've got yourself a Google Earth file of your trip that you can be proud of. You can also attach the file to an email and send it to me to add to the master maps for all to see


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