Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Preview the sights

kw: observations, travel

I am a bigger and bigger fan of Google Earth! I am planning a trip to Oregon and Washington, and decided to drive through the Cascades from Portland to Tacoma. Recent versions of Google Earth can tilt the view to horizontal, so I decided to see how the mountains would look from different vantage points.

I quickly discovered that Highway 5 runs through a valley and the mountain views are blocked by foothills nearly all the way. I decided to take the slow way: WA-503 to NF-90 past Mt St Helens on the east, then US-12 to WA-123 and Stevens Cyn Rd past Paradise on the south side or Mt Rainier, before taking WA-161 north into Tacoma. Then I used Google Earth to scope out which sections of these roads provide good views of the two mountains. I clipped images from the screen and pasted them into PowerPoint to make two montages. Click on the images below to see 1200x900 versions (so you can see the roads better).

First, the southern target, Mt St Helens. The montage shows two views (one pretty poor) on the approach, and two as one leaves to the northeast. Together, they provide views covering about 120 degrees of the south and east sides of the mountain. I won't go to Spirit Lake, which is at the end of a very winding road.

This montage shows five views, though I don't plan to go up WA-123 far enough to see one of them...time will tell.

All together, the drive time on this route is more than six hours, compared to 2.5 hours via the highway. It is my hope that the previews will help me plan the trip efficiently. It sure helped me avoid a road or two that would have provided a view of little more than nearby ridges.

Quick trick with the newest version of Google Earth: to tilt the image toward a more horizontal view, hold Shift while scrolling the wheel on a wheel mouse. You can also use Shift plus the Down Arrow to tilt toward a horizontal view, and Shift plus the Up Arrow to tilt toward a more vertical (straight down) view.

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