Project updates

Bob Dunsmore - Locating the Mullan Road ....

posted Feb 21, 2013, 7:16 AM by Ron Hall

If you have  been to a Mullan Road conference (or many other events that have provide info on the Silver Valley of Idaho) you might have seen/spoken with Bob Dunsmore. He is hard to miss - he usually has a large 4 panel display with detailed maps and related content on the Mullan Military Road. I first saw the exhibit at the original conference I attended in Fort Benton, MT. After last year's conference in Walla Walla, WA - I made myself a promise to reach out to many of the people at the conference who had been doing excellent location work on the road for years. My intent was to talk with them about their work and see if there was any interest in migrating it to tools like Google Earth for sharing.

The name at the top of that list was Robert Dunsmore.

Yesterday (Feb 20) I drove over to Osborn, Idaho, in the heart of the "Silver Valley" to meet with Bob and talk about his work on locating the Mullan Road ... and his passion for sharing it.

We met at Bob's home - a house his father built over 60 years ago, just a stone's throw from I90 .... which is fitting for a man that spent his career working as an engineer for the Idaho State Highway department. Much of his work dealt with the building of the I90 interstate across the panhandle, roughly paralleling Mullan's route. He retired right after the Wallace bypass was completed (the last piece of i90 to be "twinned").

The home is neat and cozy, and you can tell as soon as you walk in the door it is the house of someone who is a passionate reader - lots of good reading lights, spots to sit, lined with books, with a big picture window.

We sat and chatted. Bob's work on the Mullan Road started earlier in his life and he has had a lifelong interest and involvement in the history of the Silver Valley. This includes a long association with the Shoshone County Mining & Smelting Museum in nearby Kellogg.

Bob walked me through the various stages/processes he had used over the years in his trail location work. It was fascinating to me because it is also a story of how we have all moved from a paper to a digital environment on computers .... then on to the "cloud"/the internet.

His work bears all the methodology and forethought a man who has been an engineer. Translation - he is organized. We ended up "down in the basement," sitting in front of his computer ... everything was within "hands reach". Bob had already burned me a copy of some of the most pertinent pieces of his work - material behind the panel exhibit - some of his images.

Then we did some trail locate work in Google Earth - using Bobs prolific knowledge, flying into various locations, placing a location marker .... then emailing it to me for my work. 4 hours flew by. I learned a lot. Before I left I thanked Bob and asked him for one more favor.

Would it be ok if I came back again.

Mullan Statute - St Maries, Idaho

posted Feb 19, 2013, 7:48 AM by Ron Hall   [ updated Feb 20, 2013, 6:49 AM ]

When I first started this project with Bill Youngs almost 3 years ago, I located all the Mullan Statutes I could find in Google Earth and took pictures of them on my trip over (and back) to Fort Benton, MT so that I could include images of them in the Google Earth piece that is available for viewing at the Google Earth Gallery.

At the conference that year I heard about another statute that marked a point near the location of the initial southern portion of the road ... around the south end of Lake Coeur d"Alene - in what is now St Maries, Idaho. Try as I could, I could not locate the statute in Google Earth/Streetview - my tools of choice for this type of remote work. I could also not locate a picture of the statute via Google image search.

With the conference coming around again this year, and favorable February weather, I decided to use this as an excuse for a "Sunday excursion" for Lisa (my wife) and I. We traveled down to St Maries (about 60 miles SE of Spokane) and drove directly up on the marker of the main road (Idaho 28) at the east entrance to town.

It is located on a knoll in Mullan Park - at the entrance to the county fairgrounds. There is a gazebo (with interpretative signage on the logging industry in St Maries) and some informative Mullan Road signage. There is also an example of a "steam donkey" in the park - machined used for logging.

After a quick tour of St Maries - the county seat - some pictures at the Hughes House - we headed back to Heyburn State Park about 7 miles west of St Maries. There we walked the "Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes" rail trail - crossing the lake on what was once the old rail road crossing. You get an up close look at the old rotating bridge which was incorporated into the rail trail. It was a great way to "stretch the legs" in February.

We were back in Spokane for a late afternoon lunch ... which included a leisurely drive through the rolling hills of the eastern Palouse, and a stop at the old country store in Rockford, WA. 

If you are curious about the location of the statute, I just updated the Google Earth piece.

Google Earth at Walla Walla Conference

posted Apr 20, 2012, 5:27 AM by Ron Hall

Attended the 2012 Mullan Road conference in Walla Walla and saw David Polk's presentation on "Mapping the Mullan Road in Walla Walla County" - it was superb. 

One of the reasons why I was interested was because it employed the use of Google Earth - which I also demonstrating at the conference. I had presented a Google Earth "fly-through" at the 2010 Mullan Road Conference in Fort Benton, Montana. I expressed the idea then that this might be a way/technology to help pin down the general location of the work and share with others - for a wide variety of uses. To see someone actively (and accurately) doing this was great! 

Hope to "chain" together this work with that of several other people I met at the conference (Mahlon Kriebel's work on the Wright campaign and Bob Dunsmore work in the Silver Valley region of Idaho) that is not in Google Earth. Idea is to start piecing the road together, and use web based tools to do it.

I set the "Locate the Mullan Road" website up up 2 years ago to help host material for my presentation at Fort Benton and the Google Earth content piece that is up on the web/Google Earth Gallery. I included a forum to see if I could engage others - David has posted at the forum about his work - check it out - (means you might have to join to post a reply).

On to Walla Walla - A National Trail?

posted Apr 9, 2012, 7:35 AM by Ron Hall

It has been almost 2 years since I created this site as part of a presentation for the 2010 conference in Fort Benton - quite a bit has happen since then so I thought I had better update it as part of my preparation for my Walla Walla presentation.

    Recently got back from an extended trip to Washington DC, where I was part of the annual "Hike the Hill" effort to advocate on behalf of the National Trails System. I was asked to go and do several demonstrations of the work (National Forest service cost share grant) I had done on the Nez Perce National Historic Trail and give various government groups an idea of the capabilities of Google geo products/applications and how it can be of use in public/private partnerships.
    Was a great trip on many fronts (got a VIP tour of Library of Congress Division of Geography and Maps - 2 football fields of maps in the basement of the Madison building) - main library building also was running an exhibit on historical maps - including the Waldenseemuller Map (oldest know map to have the word "America" used to describe the new world).
    Did 4 major presentations of varying length (20 minutes up to an hour or so) in 4 different venues/buildings, under varying circumstances.
    All were well received, and in several cases I was allowed to sit in on other presentations having to do with updates on government sector GIS work.
    This was a narrow slice - Department of Interior and its subagencies that deal with America's national trail system - people were there from BLM, National Parks Service, and National Forest Service - I also did a presentation at the conference for the Partnership for National Trails<>- all this was part of annual "Hike the Hill" advocacy week.

      *1st presentation* was to/at Dept of Interior Building (Pentagon size/Art Deco building from the 1930's undergoing $1.6 billion dollar renovation
       - large conference room, HDMI input to a big screen, hardwire connection, help from tech people getting my laptop connected - went great. People there from all departments. Lots of Q&A after a fly through and brief demo. Was surprised how little a number of them knew about Google Earth - think it stems from licensing discussions Google and the gov't are having.

    *2nd presentation* was at an evening cocktail reception for the Partnership conference - large hotel venue, I was the floor show, up on a big screen via nice projector - 150 people ..... *no internet connection *(tried to see the room in advance, was told it had internet, but when I set up, no luck - even with hardwire - later found out that $300 fee was required) -  I did not tell anyone about the problem except key personnel, they told group to have another drink - had some content on my own machine, lots of cache, and switched over to showcasing analytic side/tools (did all the set up for this up on the big screen while people were networking, before I started/noticed quite a few following my work). Lots of hikers in the room so I used path tool/show profile (tip hold down left mouse key and making path appears to be like drawing a line). Even though I told everyone that I did not have an internet connection, most people I spoke to afterward did not know that. 
    Really shows the power of GE, what you can do with no internet. Lots of Q&A.
    *3rd presentation* was at the National Forest Service building - Next to Holocaust Museum on National mall - National Historic Landmark (original Treasury Building) also undergoing big renovation. Large scale conference room, big screen/monitor presentation that was being shared via the web with others in Salt Lake City, the Carolinas, and Washington State. Hardwire connection (good) problem was it was a secure network room and my laptop had not been approved for access (bad). No problem -presenter before me (I sat in on a presentation by the Forest Service nationwide GIS/information officer - she had seen my evening presentation at the reception and asked me to come early to see hers/give feedback) had administrator privileges on her machine. So we demonstrated how easy it was to download/install Google Earth, access my GE content from the Google Earth Gallery (Nez Perce Historic Trail), and run. Also used content/links in info bubbles to "loop back" to the Forest Service web page that has links to GE content piece and Google Maps piece. Also showcased some of the Gallery layers - 360 Cities and Weather. Did this in 20 minutes ...... which allowed them to get back on schedule.
    *4th presentation* was at new National Parks Service offices - mid size conference room, classic projector on the screen setup, hardwire connection. Among others, had director of Tourism for National Parks there, representatives from Historic Preservation/Historic Building Survey (my heros - I do 3D models with SketchUp, often using their plans), people from Parks Service CRGIS unit, number of Parks people that work on the national trails, and some VIP's from Japan (with their interpretor). Chose to showcase some government GIS data that had been provided to me several days before on a proposed Wind power project in a sensitive area. Displayed how you can interact with conventional GIS data in very interactive/innovative ways. Then flew them up to an existing project. Used time slyder, 360 Cites (someone had done an apres tower installation picture with camera attached to a mini helicopter), and a custom balloon on the project with links to Youtube video, articles/updates etc on the project. Finally displayed 3D models (thank you 3D Warehouse) of the the towers. Icing on the cake was a fly back to Washington, DC where I had stuck similar models in the national mall on the same spacing (they are almost as tall as the Washington Monument. Pretty much blew everyone away (GE did all the heavy lifting).
    Number of observations (if you are still with me):
    - I often add a WiFi hotspot to my iPhone for remote acces to internet - would have been a help here (I think)
    - Tried to do a "two for" - started each presentation with a tour that showcased various aspects of Google Earth while I talked/walked about the room hands free
    - Each tour included a geographic fly in to the location of the presentation, with a custom placemark bubble - very big response to this - especially when I rotated into 3D and 3D buildings layer was on.
    - Have done so many of these that it is fun to watch/observe the audience. It was particularly interesting to watch the people from Japan - they were engrossed/able to engage beyond any translators ability to explain.
    - I explained to each group that GE is a browser - Google Earth Builder video says it is being used by 700 million worldwide, I have heard numbers at a Google event that range up to a billion
    - Took the challenge of not making this a "whistle stop speech" presentation (American election talk for the same speech given repeated, ... generally by a Republican). Several people were at 2 or more of these, and I wanted to give them a broad exposure to GE/geo offerings.
    - One message I talked about was the synergism of public/private partnership via foundations/citizen groups. Most of what I showed was pro bono work, but key piece was done on a small cost share grant with National Forest Service/Nez Perce Trail Foundation.
    - Another talking point was that most of what I was displaying was existing "vetted" content - just breathing new life/usage into it.
    - If time allowed, talked about the use of other Google offerings for maintaining, hosting, collaborating on content.
    - Found quite a number of people using Google Earth that did not know about time saving features tools (ie GPS import), ability to add info to various layers, Google Earth Gallery button - the new info was much appreciated
    Could go on (actually worried about some default space feature in a post) - but three personal reflections 

    - First went to DC 40 years ago this coming spring, was a hotshot high school senior (Bill Gates was not even at Harvard then) that had won 
    Congressional seat in a youth in government program. Toured the capitol, was hosted by our Congress man (met and shook hands with a number of people - including Jimmy Hoffa who was testifying before a committee). Did not know it at the time, but there was a little project underway called ARPANET - about 23 users at the time. It has come quite a long way.
    - In trying to explain quickly the significance of the Nez Perce/Chief Joseph story to our visitors from Japan, I mentioned that in addition to the power of the story itself, was the fact that the original "network" in this country was the telegraph and railroads, and that the Nez Perce saga (circa 1877) was transported/shared with America via that network - capturing the attention of the nation. After the meeting, while walking down to the Library of Congress, it came to me that as tough as the story is, I found it to be good karma that almost 150 years later it was being used to showcase the capabilities of a new medium.
    - Got into doing demos/working with citizen groups because of Al Gore/"Inconvenient Truth". Google has developed a tremendous toolset for everyone to use. That said, groups like this forum have been a tremendous help to me.
    If you are still with me, thanks for your patience.
    Make it a good day.

Fort Benton and Back

posted May 23, 2010, 8:07 AM by Ron Hall   [ updated May 23, 2010, 8:31 AM ]

Had great time at conference (my first one). Location was beautiful - right on the banks of the Missouri River. Facilities were great. Hospitality of the town and our sponsors was great.

Rode over to conference taking pictures, updating online material for our presentation. Drove over Mullan Pass and Birdtail Pass (both gravel roads and beautiful spots). Learned a lot from speakers and other attendees. Presentation went well and I got quite a bit of feedback/input on location of the Mullan Road and some new statute/marker locations. On the way home I stopped and took more pictures of statutes I had just found out about at the conference.

Have started updating the web content based on what I learned at the conference. Purchased a copy (only $10. - what a deal!) of Raymond Borchers 1993 - detail maps of Mullan Road from Kay at Superior Museum (Mineral County Historical Society). At first glance at the material on our end, they will be of great help in pinning down a closer version of the road to display online.

Would like to reach out to or here from various people that have great stories about the road and it's location. Hope they or their friends can use some of the contact info at this site to reach Bill and myself. Also would like to try and get the email group or forum going if anyone is interested. Might help with investigation of National Trail designation.

Plenty of chores to catch up on here. But will try to keep puttering with this a bit a time. Rome wasn't built in a day, but a long journey begins with a single step.

Taking the Mullan Road to the Conference

posted May 18, 2010, 1:57 PM by Ron Hall

When I was asked to do a 3D fly through of the eastern portion of the Mullan Road for the conference I had no idea of the actual location of the road - so that is one of the reasons why I set up this website. I wanted to approach the process of locating the road in a logical manner, be able to modify and edit my efforts, respond to contributions from others, and document my process. The net result was that I learned more about the Mullan Road in general and it's eastern portions in particular. I did this all via the internet.

Now the fun part - verification. 

I intend to take the "general" route of the Mullan from my home outside Spokane to the conference in Fort Benton, MT. While I could describe it here, you can look at it in the interactive maps of this website. This will take me through some beautiful areas of Montana I have never seen, allow me to take a few pictures for my presentation, and give me a general sense of the roads topography. See you there. I will be the guy with the big smile.

Learning from Oregon Trail Effort

posted Apr 17, 2010, 6:34 AM by Ron Hall

In early March, I dropped in on Dave Welch when I was in Seattle presenting at a conference. Dave told me about the history of the Oregon Trail mapping program, dating back to the establishment of the National Trail legislation (early 1970's - location was simply drawn on a large scale map for legislative reasons)) and the subsequent need to document the actual location of the trail. Most of the work has been done by volunteers working from an approved set of standards. Only recently has the technology been available to develop and share this data on the web. There are issues with sharing the data with the general public. Some GPS data work has been done. The software that the association uses to collect data and share with the NPS is proprietary (and expensive) Dave was interested in seeing what Google Earth could offer. 

I explained to Dave that the free version of Google Earth was a great tool for projects like this. Members could use it in their data collection process (it imports various data from GPS units). They could also use it to share data amongst themselves and with the general public at large. It can perform certain analytic tasks that might be helpful in their preservation efforts. The pro version is available for free (1 year grant) to qualified not for profits. The pro version has more analytic tools and the ability to import and display GIS files (.shp).

I ran through a comprehensive demo of Google Earth for Dave. He was impressed. We agreed a pilot program would be a good way of testing the concept. Dave agreed to send me a sample set of their data from Oregon location work.

Pioneer Trails Mapping

posted Apr 5, 2010, 10:41 AM by Ron Hall

Last fall (2009) I sent an email to Travis Boley, explaining that I thought Google Earth (and other Google offerings) might help in the OCTA's mission to increase trail awareness. I asked if the association was interested in looking into it/hearing more about it. Got a nice email back expressing interest, suggesting a phone conversation. We talked and we both thought it was worth pursuing.

It worked out that the the Northwest Chapter (my area) of the OCTA was one of the more active chapters in the organization with regards to mapping the trail and working on the possibilities of using the web to raise awareness. Travis suggested I contact Marley Shurtleff. I exchanged a few explanatory emails with her, piqued her interest, and she steered me to Dave Welch (also in the Northwest Chapter) who heads p the mapping effort. I exchanged emails with Dave, and we had a good phone conversation.

Dave brought me up to speed on many aspects of the history and process of the mapping effort. It might not be everybody's cup of tea, but I found it all very interesting. Dave and I live on opposite sides of the state of Washington (about 300 miles apart) but felt the discussion was worth continuing. What would be best for Dave would be a demo of some of the things I was talking about. Told Dave I would be over in Seattle area presenting at a conference in early March, he was available and we set up a date.

A Bit of Background

posted Apr 5, 2010, 10:18 AM by Ron Hall

Over the past year I have developed an interest in using Google Earth to help showcase and raise awareness about the National Trail System in general and our historic pioneer trails in particular. About a year ago I (Ron Hall) put together a pilot piece for display in Google Earth on the Nez Perce Historic Trail. I contacted the Nez Perce Trail Foundation to let them know about it. They liked it and made it possible for me to showcase it at the annual National Historic Trails Conference, held in Missoula last year. I dropped in, did the demonstration, checked out the various trail exhibits and came away with a new impression of the National Trails System.

Living in the Pacific Northwest, the grandaddy of all emigrant trails for this region is the Oregon Trail - the Route 66 of the 1800's. I stared checking out the web presence of the Trail and found that there was very little in the way of interactive internet mapping on the trail. I did find that OCTA - the Oregon California Trail Association was one of the most prominent promoters of the trail. They had also done an interactive Flash (type of web software used to make it) map of the trail. So I decided to reach out  (via the web of course) to the OCTA. 

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