Lost and Found: Missed the Mitchell but Found Something Unexpected (also, 30-day Map Challenge #15) (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Thu, 16 Nov 2023

Lost and Found: Missed the Mitchell but Found Something Unexpected (also, 30-day Map Challenge #15)

[GPS Track of a hike in Los Alamos, NM] Yesterday's 30-Day Map Challenge theme was OpenStreetMap.

I use (and contribute to) OpenStreetMap quite a bit, and I use OSM basemaps in pretty much all my mapping. (I have used Google in the past, but between their changing or withdrawing APIs every few years, and suddenly deciding to charge for previously free APIs, I switched to using only open source maps.)

But that was yesterday, which was group hiking day, so I was out tramping over mountains instead of sitting at the computer making maps. But a wrong turn on the hike led to a serendipitous discovery that wouldn't have happened without OpenStreetMap.

A Wrong Turn

The day's planned hike, in Los Alamos, involved climbing the Mitchell Trail, then following the Guaje Ridge trail back to the trailhead at the cemetery.

But something has apparently changed in the signage near the beginning of the Mitchell Trail, and somehow half our group ended up turning left prematurely, thinking we e following the upper branch of the Mitchell Trail. The other half of the group descended to the arroyo, the correct route.

We (in the wrong group) climbed up along a ridge that's very similar to the upper branch of the Mitchell Trail. But when we reached an intersection and our leader turned to head south, I couldn't help voicing concern: how could this route possibly meet up with the group that had gone down the arroyo? And weren't we going in the opposite direction from the saddle toward which we were supposed to be headed?

A discussion ensued, but eventually we turned around, backtracked to the last intersection, followed a deer trail into an arroyo, ran out of trail and bushwacked up over another ridge where we eventually rejoined the Mitchell, climbed to the top and met the others who had been waiting for us there. (Fortunately the Mitchell is right above Los Alamos and has good cell signal, so the two groups were able to keep in touch.)

The rest of the hike was uneventful, if tiring: 10.0 miles and about 2000 feet of climbing according to OsmAnd. The group that followed the right track had about an 8.5-9 mile hike, but no one in the group was tracking the climb. When I compare yesterday's track versus one of the older hikes in ellie (part of PyTopo), I get 1570' of climb in 8.8 miles for the normal hike, 1819' in 9.9 for yesterday's mistake.

When I got home I was too tired to do any fiddling with maps, but this morning I uploaded the GPS trace from OsmAnd and loaded it into PyTopo alongside every other track I've saved that has "mitchell" in the filename. Yesterday's track is in magenta; mostly it follows the same trace as all the others, but in the screenshot above, you can see our erroneous excursion as the magenta section at the lower left.

Where Were We?

[GPS Track of a hike in Los Alamos, NM showing LA Mountain Trail] But what trail were we on, and where would we have ended up? I had initially thought we were probably on the Perimeter Trail, but that turned out to be wrong. In fact, the last spur we turned onto was a dead end, as I could see in OsmAnd during the hike. It looked like it probably led to a nice viewpoint, but that's all I could tell, because one of OsmAnd's faults is that it is amazingly difficult to get it to show names of trails or roads.

But at home, viewing it in OsmAnd using ThunderForest's OpenCycleMap tiles using OpenStreetMap data, that spur trail is clearly labeled as "LA Mountain Trail".

Aha! I have been wondering for years if there was an easy way to get to LA Mountain — the small peak above town where high school students paint an "LA" visible from the town below. That is, obviously there's a way to get there, but I was never quite sure which mountain it was on the map or which trail might lead there, and I never got around to searching for it.

Now I know! And it looks like a fairly short and very pleasant and scenic hike. I'm looking forward to visiting LA Mountain.
[Google Maps showing Mt Los Alamos but not the trail to it]

OpenStreetMap For the Win!

And this was all an advertisement for OpenStreetMap over Google. Here's what Google Maps looks like for the same area: no trails at all. It does label LA Mountain though it calls it "Mt Los Alamos" (a name I've never heard anyone use). To figure out how to get there, I would have had to fire up something that shows trails. Which means, most likely, something that uses OpenStreetMap data.

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[ 11:08 Nov 16, 2023    More mapping | permalink to this entry | ]

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