Posted by & filed under GIS.

There is only one rule: when you save your changes to OpenStreetMap, use #editathon in your commit message, we’ll use that to create a visulization of our edits afterwards.

Check out the OpenStreetMap Denver Spring #Editathon Flyer

Posted by & filed under America, GIS, Nature, Playground.

Canadian rockers Moxy Früvous would have you believe that the US state with the lowest highest point is in Delaware. (Moxy Früvous – The Lowest Highest Point from some shady website)  In the beginning of the song, they say that they would expect it to be Florida or Louisiana, and they would have been correct had they picked Florida, but they incorrectly went with Delaware.  Maybe because of a question in Trivial Pursuit[3]?

First Letter of Canadian Provinces and Territories

In any case, they’re Canadian, so we can give them a break.  How many people in the US can even name all of the Canadian Provinces and Territories? I tried to do it once in alphabetical order, and found that there are a lot of them that start with N: New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, and Nunavut.  38.4% of the Provinces and Territories in Canada start with an N!  I found this interesting enough that I made a pie chart about it.

The Canadian Province with lowest highest point is Prince Edward Island, at 459-466 feet (Sources Vary) [2][4].  This is still higher (but not much higher) than Delaware’s highest point [1].

Anyway, I have been interested in state highpointing for a little bit, and figured Delaware would be an easy one to knock off my list.

After a trip to White Clay Creek State Park to go biking and find the Arc Corner Monument (unsuccessfully, after my bicycle got a flat tire 8 miles from where we parked), we decided to take a detour on our way home to find the Delaware State High Point.

I had done research on it in the past, and had come across this site. It has a cool map showing that there is land near the official high point is actually slightly higher. The Delaware State High Point Wikipedia Entry claims this land was added later for drainage reasons, but it isn’t a natural high point, and therefore doesn’t count. It was easy to find, and near route 202 in Wilmington, so it was close enough to being on our way.

We arrived at the high point around 7:30pm on Halloween, and we were greeted by costumed Trick-or-Treaters.  We took a drive into the trailer park and took a photo of a field that is near the areas depicted to be above the surveyed high point (Those specific areas are all private lawns, so we didn’t want to be too intrusive). We also drove over to the official marker sign and took a photograph.  It was quite dark, and it required me to strategically position my car’s headlights on a nearby street to illuminate the sign well enough for the photograph.

Night Photo of the Delaware State Highpoint

The actual highest point is in this photo.. somewhere

Ebright Azimuth Monument Marker Night ShotEbright Azimuth Monument Marker Night Shot

US Counties by Area

Posted by & filed under America, Politics, Uncategorized.

US Counties by Area

US Counties Colored by Area

    Looking at a map of counties and county equivalents in the United States, I noticed a few things about county size that stand out to me.

  • The counties near the Mississippi and Ohio rivers seem to be extremely small.
  • Counties in and west of the Rockies are pretty big.
  • Three areas east of the Rockies seem to have pretty counties too big too.
    • Three are in northern Maine.
      • Aroostook County
      • Somerset County
      • Piscataquis County
    • One is in northern Minnesota
      • St. Louis County
    • One is in Nebraska
      • Cherry County

    The counties in northern Maine are near the Canadian border and are mostly wilderness, so that most likely explains their size.  Aroostook County has an interesting history involving the Aroostook war, and is known locally as “The County”. (Check out the Wikipedia entry)

    St. Louis County, Minnesota is an interesting place as well, it contains a national forest (which contains its own national wilderness area), and a national park.  It also includes the Laurentian Divide tri-point, where water can flow to the Gulf of Mexico, the Saint Lawrence River, or the Arctic Ocean.

Counties of Nebraska

Counties of Nebraska

Cherry County

    Cherry County stood out to me because it is right in the center of the map and is far larger than any county in Nebraska.  Cherry County is 15,564 square kilometers in size, where the next largest county, Custer County is 6,672 square kilometers.  This means more than two Custer Counties would fit into Cherry County.  For more comparison, the state of Connecticut is only 14,356 square kilometers.
I couldn’t find a good reason for its size, the county was created from unorganized territory and at the time it was created, most of the present-day counties surrounding it were also unorganized. (,
In 1911 there was a plan to break up Cherry County into 5 distinct counties.  This would make administering the county a little easier, and give many residents easier access to their county seat.  The plan was voted against, and the county still remains the largest in Nebraska.

Interesting Points

  Water Falls

    The Snake River Falls are said to be the largest in Nebraska.  I was unable to find photos of the waterfalls that weren’t copyrighted, but you can search with google.  There is also a water fall called the Schlegel Creek Falls within the County.  I found a book with some more information here.

  Time Zone

    Another oddity with Cherry County is that it falls in both the Central and the Mountain Time zone.  This created more of a reason as to why the county would like to be split into two, or five parts!

    I was able to find a website with time zone maps.  I combined the county map and time zone map to create the following map. The county boundary is in blue, and the time zone line is in red.

View Larger Map

    I’m sure there’s a lot more cool stuff going on in Cherry County, Nebraska.  Maybe one day I’ll travel there, or get the urge to write more about it.  Until then, Enjoy!

Posted by & filed under America, GIS.

Mount Davis Observation Tower

The observation tower at Pennsylvania's highest point, Mount Davis.

On our trip back home from Pittsburgh, we decided that an excellent place to stop would be the highest point in Pennsylvania.  I have never been a highpointer, but after my first state high point adventure, I can easily understand how addictive it can be!

The Mount Davis high point is located on a mountain ridge called Negro Mountain.  It is about 4.37 miles from the Pennsylvania / Maryland border, and just over 16.5 miles from the Pennsylvania / Maryland / West Virginia tripoint. My GPS showed the location to be 39.785841°N, 79.176596°W, with an elevation of 3,362 ft.  Which is much more accurate of an elevation than I normally expect from my GPS.  According to the Wikipedia article on the point, the coordinates are 39.786111°N, 79.175833°W.

Windmill at the Casselman Wind Power Project

My attempt at an artistic photo of a windmill at the Casselman Wind Power Project

We saw a few interesting sites on our way to the High Point.  The first of which was the Casselman Wind Power Project. We decided to get out and explore the wind mill area.  I had never been that close to a wind farm before.  It is a really amazing source of power, and it appears to be located in a fairly suitable location, as most of the turbines were turning.

Mount Davis, Elevation 3214 feet, Highest Point in Pennsylvania

The road sign marking the state's highest point.

We eventually headed back on our journey to the state’s highest point, and headed up the mountain.  The mountain wasn’t very steep at all, and we didn’t even realize we had made it to the top when we passed the high point road sign.
Ken at Baughman Rocks

Ken climbing on Baughman Rocks

There was a small pull off here, so we got out and took some photos.  There was also a trail going into the woods to a site called Baughman rocks.  We headed back to see what the rocks were all about.  They were pretty cool, and were apparently created by the freeze-thaw cycle which creates similar formations on the mountain.
The climate on the mountain top apparently results in stunted tree growth, the land is of little use to agriculture, and the weather can be brutal.  Somerset County, PA (where Mount Davis is located) claims to be one of the snowiest places in the United States, with over 200 inches of snow each year.  This is attributed to its proximity to both lake effect snows coming from Lake Erie, and Nor’easter storms originating over the Atlantic Ocean.
Highest Treetop in Pennsylvania

What I assume is the Highest Treetop in Pennsylvania

Next we packed up our car and headed to the high point observation tower.  It provides excellent views of the surrounding countryside, and you can even see a few small towns.  I really would love to come back up in October to see the leaves changing color, it must be an amazing sight.
One thing that stood out to me in photos of the area before I arrived was a particularly tall Pine Tree.  In the photos, it kind of looked like a Cell Phone tower, but upon closer inspection, it actually is a tree.  I have attached the photo of the westward view from the Observation Tower so you can see for yourself.
Topographic map of the area

Topographic map of the area around Mount David

There is a topographic map on the top of the observation tower that gives you a good idea of how the land is laid around you.  There is a good explanation as to why some of the nearby mountains look taller, and how it is just an optical illusion.  This map also notes where different towns are, and you can easily identify them.
Mount Davis is closer to I-68 than it is to I-76, so we took I-68 back to our rendezvous point in Carlisle, PA.

Sideling Hill Gap

Sideling Hill Gap Road Cut

Interstate 68 also had a treat for us.  Interstate 68 traverses Sideling Hill, just as the Pennsylvania turnpike does.  The Pennsylvania turnpike used to tunnel right though Sideling Hill, and the tunnel and roadway are still open to daring bicyclist.  The Pennsylvania turnpike was widened and the tunnel became a major bottleneck.  The route was originally designed for train traffic, so grades were kept to a minimum.  PennDOT determined it would be cheaper to route the highway through a gap in the mountain than to update the tunnel.  PennDot was very lucky that a sufficient gap was nearby that they could use for the highway.  Highway engineers in Maryland were not so lucky with Interstate 68.
The only gap in Sideling Hill in Maryland is at the Potomac River at the West Virginia / Maryland State line.  The engineers decided to make a large road cut instead, and create an artificial mountain gap.  I became interested in road cuts after reading Roadside Geology of Pennsylvania for a geology course I was taking.  Road cuts show the stone formations underneath the mountains, and give you some insight into how the mountain could have been formed.  Seeing the Sideling Hill road cut was an excellent surprise along our trip!
Appalachian Brewing Company

Appalachian Brewing Company

No trip is complete without a stop at a local brew pub.  We stopped at the Appalachian Brewing Company just outside of Camp Hill, PA for some excellent beer, rosemary bread sticks, salad, and peanut butter pie!  The waitress explained to us that they are not located in the borough of Camp Hill because the borough is a dry town.  That is the first I had ever hear of a Pennsylvania municipality being dry!

I got to learn a lot about Pennsylvania on this trip, and am looking forward to highpointing in NJ and DE in the near future.  I also came across an excellent webpage with highpoints for all of Pennsylvania’s 68 counties.  I hope to get to a few of these this summer!

Posted by & filed under GIS, Uncategorized.

ESRI shapefiles are split up into “Shapes” which are split further into “Parts”.
For example: One could think of a college or corporate campus as a group of buildings.  The individual buildings could be stored as “Parts” and the entire campus could be stored as a group.
KML files work in a similar fashion, although the terminology is different.  In a KML file, the “Shape” is termed “Placemark” and the “Part” is termed by its data type (ie. “Polygon”).
Figure 2.1 – Part: A single building (part) is
highlighted. ( image)
Figure 2.2 – Shape: A entire campus (shape)
or group of buildings is highlighted.
( image)