Paddling the Boundary Waters – REI Talk

Great spot to park a canoe, in Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
Credit: flickr user rit1981

Brad and I went to a talk at REI about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in northern Minnesota, part of the Superior National Forest. The speaker was a great guy named Jerry, retired teacher, that had been going up there for many years and actually first went there when he was a kid with his dad. I took crazy mental notes since I’d love to go there for a future trip and there was a handout so I’ll put here as much as I remember.

It was some great info. The Boundary Waters is his favorite place on Earth, one of the most beautiful places he says. The Wilderness Area is 1.1 million acres and the adjoining Quetico Park in Canada is 1.2 million acres. There are over 1,200 miles of canoe trails. I included the recommended equipment checklist that Jerry handed out at the very bottom.


They require permits for everyone going in, $16/person. They have a limited availability and reservations open up a certain time of year (forgot but probably early spring). Summer is the popular season and it may be difficult to get a permit for the popular entry points. However, during other times of the year they are pretty easy to get for any entry point and even during the high season it’s not too difficult if you are flexible on the entry point.

Camp sites

He said there are over 2,000 permanent camp sites with fire rings and “thrones”. The “thrones” are up beyond the camp site somewhere and have no cover. I guess they are thorough about having these since everything is close to the water. Fires are allowed in grates only. Some places there are no fires allowed due to all the dead-fall from wind storms.

The topography of the area and lakes are part of the Canadian Shield which is bedrock that has been scraped and scoured by glaciers many times over thousands of years. So the ground is mostly granite rock. This means you need a free-standing tent because tent staking is likely not possible. I didn’t ask if some anchor bags would work, maybe possible. But my tent isn’t free-standing so it might not work. Continue reading

Great Panorama Stitcher – Microsoft Research’s ICE

Best panorama stitching software I have found and now use is Microsoft Research’s ICE (Image Composite Editor). It’s extremely simple to use, has good quality results, and has all the options I need. It’s free, but it’s only available for Windows.

Microsoft Research’s ICE (Image Composite Editor)

I have had 2 cameras that each came with Arcsoft’s PanoramaMaker, I think version 3 and 4. I remember having to set the stitch points often in PanoramaMaker 3 but 4 was a little simpler. However, I compared the resulting stitched images made with both and found that the newer version made somewhat worse quality images! What do I mean by worse quality? I looked closely at the resulting images and one gave more fuzzed and less sharp results than the other. That was unacceptable so it left me wanting to find something better. They are up to version 6 now but I haven’t tried it.

I searched for an open source alternative. I found Hugin and briefly tried that. It worked well and it has a lot of options but left a lot to be desired for the usability I was looking for.

Microsoft ICE Panorama Stitcher Features

Ever since I came across Microsoft’s ICE and tried it, I have been completely happy with it. Throw the photos in (just drag them in, nice), wait a few seconds, and you have a panorama. Don’t worry about the correct order, it finds it. Then you can do auto-crop, scale, and export as you like. It’s just a few buttons. And the resulting image quality is good from my testing.

Microsoft ICE panorama stitcher
Microsoft ICE panorama stitcher

Many cameras and smartphones now have automatic panorama stitching. I don’t have a camera like that so I’m not sure how those compare, and my phone has that ability but I have no illusions about the photo quality compared to my real camera. So if you’re in the same boat as me, you should give ICE a try.

San Gorgonio Hike Write-up Is Up

Snow hiking in San Gorgonio WildernessThe trip report of our 2006 winter overnight hike into the San Gorgonio Wilderness in Southern California is now up in the Backpacking Trips section! We were overly optimistic with our trail aspirations as the snow and steep terrain beat us up a bit. However, we still had a great trip and an experience that included cold temps, camping on the snow, and 4,000 ft of elevation change. I’ll gradually continue to fill in more of our past backpacking trips and get them up on the site.

Mt. Everest 3.8 Billion Pixel Interactive Image

MtEverest-GlacierWorks50This 3.8 gigapixel image of the Khumbu Glacier was captured and stitched by David Breashears in spring 2012, from a viewpoint near Mount Everest.

You can pan and zoom around this remarkable image, seeing the massive tent city of Base Camp, and awesome features of the Khumbu Icefall and surrounding mountains. You can also spy some climbers up on the near mountains if you’re lucky, and Tibetan prayer flags too. I enjoyed just zooming in and scrolling around randomly. I’m not exactly sure which mountain is Everest itself (back, center-left?).

The coolest thing though is that this is just a tiny part of the project that GlacierWorks is undertaking. On NPR, Brashears said this barely scratches the surface of where this tech project is headed.

“It’s hardly even a demo…. It’s missing 99 percent of its functionality, which is audio and video and the ability to access other curated content.”

When complete in a few months, this will serve as a completely interactive tour of Mount Everest. Overall this is part of an effort to track and exhibit how the Himalayan landscape has changed with glacial retreat.

John Krebs Wilderness, New Designation

The John Krebs Wilderness was created in April 2009 and it pushed the percentage of wilderness area within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks from 83.6% to 93.4%. This happened a while back but I still wanted to post about it since I loved hearing it. The Wilderness encompasses 39,740 acres in the area of Sequoia National Park to the south of the Mineral King Road, and also has a narrow band surrounding the Mineral King Valley. This puts the Wilderness up to the Mineral King side of Sawtooth Pass, Timber Gap, Franklin Pass, and Farewell Gap. It also includes a large part of the East Fork of the Kaweah River. The Golden Trout Wilderness borders it to the southeast and the Sequoia National Park’s Wilderness borders it to the north and east so it connects a large area of wilderness. This area had already been administered as defacto wilderness so didn’t require a huge change but it is great to make it official.

John Krebs Wilderness Map

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Goofy Animated Hiking GIFs

Here are some goofy animated hiking gifs from our trips. The Pecos Wilderness trailhead shot was the one that started this, when we realized how funny it was when paging through the photos. Then the Great Smoky Mountains trailhead shot was the first intentional trailhead dance. The one from Ansel Adams Wilderness with Jason jumping is hilarious.

Ansel Adams Wilderness 2007-Hiking boulder jump animated GIF

More after the jump (lol sorry)

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Smoky Mountains Trip Photos up on Picasa

Trailhead shotI have photos from our 3 day backpacking trip in Great Smoky Mountains National Park up on Picasa! Dave, Tom, and I participated and the shots are from Dave and I. I narrowed it down to just 300 🙂 Eventually I will get the trip report with photos up on the Backpacking Trips area of this site, but I have to fill in a lot of past trips still.