Saturday, February 22, 2020


Busy with science in a tropical tree, 200-feet off the ground, I heard a squirrel. Looking, I saw not a rodent, but a 3-foot serpent, dangling in a long, lazy S. Gently swaying, it leapt free, its body flattened and sinusoidal as it sailed away, wiggling like it would in the water. 

The flying snake crossed 50 yards of empty air, approached a smooth trunk, reared up, straightened out, and stalled. After sticking its vertical landing, the reptile inched up the distant tree and disappeared. 

Quite a feat for the beast famously condemned to crawl.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

A Good Place for FREE Downloads of USGS topo maps to look at on Google Earth from the USGS

For old-school, old-dog, old-farts like me, nothing beats the crutch of USGS topo-maps. Perhaps it sounds heretical but I'm not really a fan of Cal-Topo: too gimmicky with bad naming conventions for many features in Alaska as I've found many times when people write me for route beta in some obscure mountain range of AK.

For route planning I download .kmzs of USGS topos FOR FREE (no subscription) from here:, unzip them, and open them up in Google Earth Pro (GEP). If I'm lucky there's some good Maxar/DigitalGlobe half-meter resolution imagery hosted by GEP. If it's crappy old Landsat underneath, then I much prefer the topo. Call me what you will, but, boy, do I love those old maps, especially the 1:250,000 scale for not just planning but travel.

And by the way: why not leave the phone and Gaia home next time and just go paper?

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