Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Wading the River to See Meigs Falls Up Close

Great Blue Lobelia blooms in a roadside ditch.

Wading the River to See Meigs Falls Up Close

Dana Koogler

Wednesday September 12, 2018

   I have hiked to all the guidebook waterfalls of the Great Smoky Mountains.  I have
visited a great many that are not in the guidebooks.  We moved to Blount County in 2001.
I was thrilled to be nearer my favorite hiking spots in the Smokies.     The National Park has
a number of waterfalls that are viewable as roadside attractions.   Meigs Falls is the best known of all.    Being nearer and coming to the park more often I began to notice the great hoards of
people photographing the same falls over and over in mostly the same ways.   Meigs Falls was 
primarily viewed from the Little River Road and the best you could do was use a powerful zoom lens for a closer look.    

     I was not satisfied with that and in about 2002 me, my daughter and son waded Little River one pretty Saturday and walked right up the creek to visit the falls.    It was not particularly
hard or unsafe.   I remember seeing a water snake laying at the base of Meigs Falls that day.
I also remember being very pleased with myself for having gotten a closer look. I had photographed the falls from the base.    

        I had been working on organizing and improving my YouTube channel lately.
I realized while working on it that I had no video of Meigs Falls.  None!   I decided that one day while it was still warm I'd wade the river and fix that.   

"The Perilous Crossing" 😁

  I woke  today and decided I'd go ahead and visit Meigs Falls up close.  I sipped my coffee this
morning and played around on YouTube.  It occurred to me: I wonder if anyone else has videos of Meigs Falls from the base?  A quick search of YouTube turned up one video from that
perspective.   A fellow using a Go Pro had made a video of himself that was mostly just him
getting ready to cross and crossing Little River. The title of it was something along the lines of
Meigs Falls from Across the River-- and mentioned something about a "perilous river crossing".  I watched the video and looked at the date.   It was July.   The water levels were 
normal Summer volumes.   I couldn't help getting a bit tickled at the drama thrown into
this guy's video title.   Maybe to him that is peril.  

    I drove to the park and quickly headed west toward Cades Cove to check the creek level
on another roadside falls. Meadow Branch was on my waterfall wish list for river crossings to get near photos and video.  The water levels were pitiful so I turned and headed down 
the Little River Road.   Bright dots of orange spotted jewelweed glittered along the roadside.
I also saw big swaths of bright yellow dots of pale jewelweed.    Tall wild sunflowers of varying
kinds filled the ditches.     The river flowed by green and shimmering and beautiful.  Before long I arrived at that well known pull off across from Meigs Falls.  

     A group of four adults stood looking at the falls way in the distance and trying to get
photos of it.  I got out of the jeep and walked down the road far enough to get a glimpse of the falls before committing to cross.  It was flowing pretty well for Summer.  It was enough to 
make me feel justified in making the trip.    The four young adults smiled at me and looked puzzled.   I grabbed my gear, locked the jeep and headed in the opposite direction. 
The rock retaining wall at the Meigs Falls viewing spot is  too high to get down to river level.  
I walked a hundred feet downstream and was able to reach river level without any trouble.

    I surveyed the crossing.  The water levels were normal for Summer.  I could see how I needed
to cross.   I started off in ankle deep water by the bank and soon was up to my knees.  The trouble with crossing Little River is that the shallower spots are flowing very rapidly and strongly.  It makes it hard to stand and it also makes it harder to see where you need to place your feet.    The calmer water is usually quite deep and can be a little alarming to step into
such a hole.   I have crossed the river numerous times to Mannis Branch Falls and  only once
has it been easy.   I made it across just fine though. I was thankful that my karma from
laughing at the drama king and his perilous crossing didn't come back to bite me in the butt.

Once Across The Stream

   I was pleasantly surprised to find that once I crossed the river there was a well worn path
all the way to the falls.   I do not recall that being there before, but we waded the river and creek exclusively that time.    Meigs Creek was flowing shallow and along its banks bloomed
lots of bold red cardinal flower, wands of goldenrod, tall pink poufs of Joe Pye Weed, and a few yellow sunflowers.    I enjoyed the coolness of the creek on my feet.   I kept a sharp eye out for snakes.   I kept an eye and an ear out for bears.    I saw neither today.  I was met with this headline upon my return home.  I was just as glad I did not know this while I was hiking.
A bear ate a ginseng poacher.   

GSMNP: Man's body found two miles from Cades Cove, bear euthanized after incident

      I was amazed at the deep green velvet moss covering everything in the shadows near the falls.    Lots of flotsam was piled up in one corner below the falls.   I took my time and enjoyed
taking pictures and shooting video.   I am really liking the improved quality of my videos
since I began using our Go Pro.  The color and clarity is far better as is the sound quality.

First cross the stream look at Meigs Falls. I have arrived!

A closer, isolation shot of the falls


Nearest... You don't usually see profile shots of this falls.  You don't often see photos from this side of the river period. 

   Below is a glimpse back at the view toward the road.  Another camera angle seldom seen.

Below is a video I shot using the Go Pro

   I got closer and closer until I had myself and the camera in the falls.  

       I lingered as long as I wanted and eventually wore it out and headed back.  
It was a pretty day to be out.    The weather was perfect.   I couldn't help wondering if 
in a few days this same stream would be so flooded I'd not be able to cross it safely?  
Hurricane Florence looms large coming in off the Atlantic.   It is predicted to be the 
storm of a lifetime.  I hope the weather forecasters are wrong.

       I waded the river back even more easily since I knew where the deeper holes would be.
I ended up in the river to my waist, but I was already drenched so it didn't matter.   I 
trucked on across and put my gear back in the jeep. I grabbed a towel to sit on and something cold to drink and continued on my way home.  

  **Interesting Note**  My camera is a Canon EOS T3i.     I have had trouble shooting video
with it lately.  It would run a few seconds then it would flash a low battery indicator and shut off automatically.    I wondered if my rechargeable batteries were getting to where they no longer held an adequate charge?   I did some research and found that this has nothing to do with the 
battery life.   It happens when the camera is trying to write video to the SD card and the card can't keep up with the camera.    The solutions are thus: 1. Reformat the card. if that doesn't resolve the issue....2.  Buy and use a more high quality SD card.  I have reformatted my card and it seems to have fixed the problem.  I am still going to purchase a better quality card.
I love using the Go Pro, but I still want my camera to function optimally in all modes including video!    

Below is the type card recommended.  They are a bit pricey, but I think it will be worth it.
SanDisk Extreme Pro 32GB SDHC UHS-I Card (SDSDXXG-032G-GN4IN)

 A few shots of roadside wildflowers. Above orange spotted jewelweed and great blue lobelia
 Above and below.. white turtleheads

      I concluded my day by stopping by the cemetery to tend Teresa Lindsey's grave.   I cleaned the headstone and put out Autumn foliage and flowers.   I miss her. She was my co-grandma. The mother in law of my daughter.    Being here and missing her is a reminder to enjoy every moment of every day.   She was a happy, joyful soul.   I will see her again one day.  

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Whites Mill Refuge

New York Ironweed Close Up

Whites Mill Refuge 

Dana Koogler

Thursday Sept. 6, 2018

   I had been wanting to go see a place that is about ten minutes from my house.
It is a waterfowl refuge.  It did not look like much on satellite view, but seeing as how
it was that close I figured it was worth a look.  It was not a complete waste of time, but
this time of year it is so overgrown there is no walking in there.  Unless you want to plow
endlessly through weeds as high as your head that is.  It is also supposed to be a marsh.
I did not have any plans to wade out into that mess without being able to at least see
the ground to tell how firm it was before stepping.    I found the ruins of Whites Mill.
I like old grist mills.  I am not sure how this one was powered.  Crooked Creek is right
near it, but not beside it.  They had to pipe water from the stream somehow in the past.

   Also there is no longer a mill wheel here.   I'd love to learn some history of this structure.
I've not run onto any thus far despite having looked online.  

 Sign at the entrance

 Whites Mill Ruins.

 Broken piece of pottery
Steps still standing but the floor of the top part is largely rotted out. 

 Cement structure behind the mill that makes me wonder if this was part of what powered it way back when?

Back side of the ruins

 Partridge Pea, goldenrod, new york ironweed,

Spotted Jewelweed growing by Crooked Creek

 Above and Below muddy old Crooked Creek

Cluster of purple New York Ironweed

Jamestown Camping Trip Labor Day Weekend

Great Blue Lobelia growing along the River Trail 

Jamestown Camping Trip Labor Day Weekend

Kenny, Dana & Gabe Koogler 

Friday Aug. 31 & Sat. Sept. 1, 2018

Pix are here starting with frame 401

   We had planned on taking Gabriel and going on a long weekend camping trip for Labor Day.
We've been trying to take this kid camping since June.   Every time something seemed to happen to
thwart our efforts.  Kenny was preparing for back surgery or recovering from it.  The truck and camper debacle.   We had all been sick with some Summer crud and while mine only lasted 
twenty-four hours, Kenny & Gabriel were still not 100%.    Kenny was bound and determined
we were going, and that was that.  He had me book reservations at Maple Hill Campground.
He reasoned it would be a  busy weekend, and we might have trouble getting one if we didn't act fast.    He was correct on that as they were booked by the time we arrived Friday evening.
Gabriel was still very fussy and Kenny was having "sinking spells" every few hours. I told him
I believed it was a bad idea. I wanted to call and cancel, but he said no we were going. 
Hell bent for leather.
          We arrived Friday afternoon very late.  We set up. It was a pretty afternoon with perfect 
weather. Gabriel traveled like a champ napping 90% of the trip over.   I brought over the other pickup with the RZR in tow.   Everything went to plan. I had called John & Sharon to see if they'd be around this weekend? They were going to be around so that was good.   All seemed pretty good to start.
We played in the playground at the RV park a lot.  We got caught in the rain.  We went in and dried off and headed over to see John & Sharon after supper.
         Gabe loved them and he loved Otie the dog and Coon the cat. They tolerated him, but 
only just.   Coon wanted nothing to do with him other than stalking him as prey.   Otie was
more tolerant and let Gabe pet him.   The cabin looked awesome with Sharon's flowers blooming
and all their hard work really has paid off.  
     Season of purple and gold over in the field next to the campground.

    Friday night Gabriel was worn out. He had played hard. Lots of excitement.  Bedtime came and he was ready to go home to his own bed.   He did not want to be in the camper. He did not want to be away from our house or his own crib.   I tried laying down in bed with him, but it was no good.
He finally got in bed with Kenny in our bed.  He fell asleep while I sat up and read.  I went to bed thirty minutes later and we all slept together.   Near morning Kenny finally got up and slept in Gabe's bed.  I woke up with baby boy's arms flung over my face and all sorts of weirdness as he tried to sleep right up against me.   It was a rough night for sure.

       Saturday he was still not eating well from having been sick.   We thought riding the four wheeler
would help get his mind off it.   We went over to see John and Sharon before it got late.
John had an afternoon football game to attend.  We went and rode the river trail for a little.
It was beautiful.  Gabe still was fretting and fussy.   You'd get motrin in him and he'd be pretty good
for four to six hours, but when it wore off he was right back to cranky.   
East Fork Obey River on Labor Day Weekend
Blue green waters of the East Fork River today.
Looking upstream you can see advection fog over the water.  The air is much warmer than the water forming condensation mist.
East Fork River at Swift Ford 2018
Looking downstream on the river.. it is beautiful. This is the ford and above that the swimming hole.
It is formed from spring water that is always about 68 degrees.
above: John's sweet smile and laugh
Mo, Kenny and Gabe talking and eating M &Ms


Above: Gabe tellin' Mo bout it.

River trail was pretty.  Tons of cardinal flower, green headed coneflowers, great blue lobelia shown above and below.

Below:  Stump with mushrooms and the river mirroring the forest

Mushroom Stump EFO 2018

    We had a rough Saturday and I was exhausted from no sleep.  
We finally took Gabe back to the camper in more or less defeat.   I told Kenny I felt we were in for 
yet another rough night.  Gabe flat said "Wanna go home!" and finally Papaw was willing to listen to reason.   They let me lay down for an hour to nap while they went to play and get things packed up to go home.    We bagged the trip after only a day.   Gabriel just doesn't like camping or at least was not about it this trip.   We won't give up on him, but will try to take along Tessa and Michael and the rest of the family to see if that helps him enjoy it more.  We also need to pick a Jellystone Campground or some location geared specifically toward kids.   Keep him busy doing what he likes.

    We headed home and were darn glad to be there.   Everyone relaxed and had a better nights sleep in our own beds. Jared came up Sunday and Monday to visit.  He needed to be with Gabe and vice versa.    Not what we had planned, but like the Gambler says "Know when to fold 'em." 

Monday, September 3, 2018

How To Use Tennessee Landforms --Part 3

How To Use Tennessee Landforms --Part 3 

Dana Koogler 

Monday Sept. 3, 2018

Tennessee Landforms 

   I have covered a fair amount of ground in the previous two parts.  I will attempt to wrap things up
with this third and final tutorial. Perhaps I will expound on the series as I learn things I can pass along.   It is safe to say there are always more things to learn.   I have posted a link to Tennessee Landforms website above as with the other tutorials. I am not going to back track and explain in 
this blog entry what the site is for a third time.  

Entering GPS Coordinates

How do you enter GPS coordinates or way points into your GPS unit? 

I am going to explain here and provide a short Youtube tutorial that runs through the process.

I am explaining how to do this with the unit I own.  I have a Garmin GPSMAP 60Csx.
Turn the unit on by holding down the power button at the top of the unit. 
Once it is on it will display a page.  Push the MARK button.  Once you get the screen with the numbered tab. Push Enter and go up to the numbers.  Name your way point. I named mine Skull Ck Fls for an abbreviation for Skull Creek Falls.  Then using the directional arrows push them until the yellow highlighted area goes down to the Location box where the numbers for the waypoint get plugged in.  Once here push enter again. use the directional arrows to go across to where you need to start.  I had to start at 6.  I had 35.12345 displayed.  The waypoint was  36.381200,-84.635300
Using the up/down arrows move the highlighed portion around to the next number you want. Once you are over it push enter then continue to repeat that process until you have entered the waypoint.  Once you have it in click OK.   This should save it.  Go to FIND using the button on the front.   Scroll over to Recent Finds.  Click that using enter and it will show you your newly created waypoint if it saved it and it should be the first one on top!  

Using GPS Coordinates in a TomTom Device

  It is possible to use the GPS coordinates off Tennessee Landforms in a TomTom navigation device
such as you'd use in a vehicle.   A couple words of caution before you do this. 
1.  A TomTom is going to try to take you as close as you can get by way of roads to a feature. The device is not going to have the sense a human does to know that you cannot drive a car down some of the pig paths it may try to use.  It will throw up warnings about dirt roads, but it lacks the human judgement element.    It is best to use driving directions or some type of address or street intersection
as a way of getting you closer.  Once you have gotten closer then enter the GPS coordinates to get you closer.  This is if you are in a vehicle intended for use on regular roads.   IF you are in a RZR and using the device running on battery or plugged into the four wheeler's battery...  you can use them this way further out with greater accuracy.   

Just remember .. these devices were designed for travel in vehicles on roads. 
Remember they cannot decide if a route is practical or not.

   Always remember to cancel a planned route in the device prior to entering a new set of information for it to navigate to.    If you don't you will be taken in endless circles.    How do I know about these things? I have made both of the above mistakes multiple times. 😋

   Turn on the TomTom.  Let it go through its warm up, acquire satellites.  Sign any terms of use by clicking.  Once you get the home screen click on it and make sure there are no routes already planned. If it is ready to go it will say No Route Planned.   At the home screen click Navigate To.  Then you'll get a screen with options.. one is a blue arrow.  Click that. It will give you more options.  
Select Latitude/Longitude.  Once you click this it will ask you for the North coordinate first enter this and click OK. Remember to look at what you are using. If it is decimal it is easier, but you must enter them EXACTLY using degree symbols and ' marks precisely or it will not be correct.   Very case specific.  Once you have gotten the North coordinate in enter the WEST coordinate.
Once that is done you can click OK.  Then it will take you to a box and you click Done.  
It will begin trying to take you to that location.  

Changing the Format of GPS Coordinates in GPS Unit 

Changing the format of your GPS units way points from degrees decimal min. to decimal etc.
Turn the GPS unit on.  Press the Menu button twice.  It will give you a bunch of icons.  Scroll over to Setup and click on this.  Once in this view scroll down to UNITS and click this. It will give you a drop down menu of choices.  At the top box that is the one you click on to change it from decimal to degrees decimal minutes or degrees minutes seconds.  It will have other choices, but not likely anything you will need except the top three. 

Below is a video tutorial that goes over the steps

Using a GPS Coordinate Already Stored in the Unit

Once you already have GPS units stored in the device, but you need to use one of them.
Here is how to do that.  Turn the unit on.  Press FIND then when in that view select WAYPOINTS.
Click Enter again.  It will give you an alphabetized list.  Use the directional arrows to scroll over to the alphabet letter you want.  Let's say C for Court House Rock. Press C then scroll over and push OK.   Once in the C section of your list scroll down til you see Courthouse Rock.  Push enter.
Then when it brings up the page for Courthouse Rock scroll down to the bottom right and press GO TO.  It will say drawing route It will give you a display at the top that may read something like SE to Courthouse Rock. The page may look cluttered. You can push the two buttons on the sides to scroll the view in closer or out further to clear up the screen to more readable.  It will clear itself up automatically as you get closer if the unit is on.   You can also press MENU in this view and it will give you a drop down menu off choices. Scroll down to Turn On Declutter. Push Enter.  That may clear it up for you also. 

Creating Elevation Profiles & Making Sense of Them

  I briefly touched on the elevation profile feature and reading GPS tracks on the first tutorial. 
I will attempt to flesh out the use of this tool a bit more.   It is always good when you are going hiking or bushwhacking to know what the climb or descent will be like.   It is important especially when trying to reach the base of waterfalls to know if the terrain is going to permit it.  Do I need to take rope because it will be nearly vertical?  Is it going to be impossible or just way too dangerous?
Is the climb up that mountain with no trail going to be more than I can handle physically?  

Let me use a waterfall we found as an example.  Mill Branch Falls in Bledsoe County.

Open the page to that and go to the google map.  I switch to satellite view first because that helps me
be sure I'm drawing the track where we actually walked.  We followed the power line out.
I left click starting my red mark and then continue to do so following out the most logical and likely path. Then go to the bottom left under the map and pick the lower of the two Track Elevation buttons.
Click that and it will display the elevation profile. Below is the results.

You can see the graph shows that we traveled about 0.7 miles and our elevation went from 2000 ft down to about 1890 ft then some more ups and downs toward the end... finally ending at about 1950 ft.   That is not too terrible. Nothing real extreme.   

What may help you more to understand what you're up against in steep descents and climbs is to make another track of the part that has the topo lines closest together. Like the climb up to the base of the falls at the end.  This is where you can use the slope of a line calculation to understand the percentage of grade.  To do so  you need to calculate Rise over Run.  

 Our last bit of climb was a distance of 0.10 mile (run) to climb the last 60 ft. 
That works out to be an 11% grade. Not too bad though without any trail it seemed like it
at the time. 
Here is a link to an app that you can use for this Grade Percent Incline Calculator

Broaden Your Search When Looking for an Approach 

  Now I'm going to throw in something more fun to ponder.   Sometimes when looking for an approach or a way to reach a land form I will do all the above. Go and try it in real time and still come up unsuccessful.    One thing I have recently figured out is that when you are not having any luck with finding a way into somewhere... broaden the scope and direction of your search.   Look out
further on maps and look in different directions.   Say we've been trying to get to a far flung cascade in a deep gorge with no visible way in or down to it.   I've tried from the east and the north. No luck. 
I zoom the map out and start looking west.  I find an old road leading over to that gorge and then down to the stream!   This happened to me for real this past year.   This will be meaningless to all but the nosiest and geekiest of my buddies.  Team Waterfall types.  The Brian Solomon's and Chuck Sutherland's of the world for example.  

Getting Your GPS Unit to Talk to Your Computer

  Today I finally got our GPS unit and our computer talking to one another.  I finally figured it out.
I will try to share what I learned while it is fresh in my mind. It will help me retain the knowledge if I try to write about it and pass it along to others.   

When you buy a GPS unit you will often have a CD that needs to be run with it.  This installs the drivers and associated software for the device.   It helps your computer link up with it.  You need the connecting cable for the unit. You need to run the disc that comes with it.  Then you need to download and install Garmin Basecamp. It is a free program.   

  If your unit is not new and you've had it awhile do this.  Make sure you remove all traces of the old programs from your PC or MAC.   Run the disc that came with it.  Download Garmin Basecamp.
Connect the device to the computer by the cord.   Turn the unit on.   Open Basecamp.  It will start searching for updated system requirements for your PC or MAC.  It will also look for updated drivers or software for your unit.   Once these things are done you should be able to notice your device communicate with your computer. The PC will recognize the device is connected.  It may transfer all the data from your unit to the PC and Basecamp.    Once this is happening you can save waypoints from Tennessee Landforms to your GPS unit.   I will explain how and post another how to tutorial video.   

  A couple important points about Tennessee Landforms.  She's getting to be an older lady now like me.   She has a few parts that don't work anymore.   One such is any links to G4 mapping no longer function because the dude who ran and hosted that mapping site took it down.   Another point is to note that any links to Garmin Communicator on there no longer work.  After 2014 most browsers won't respond if you click the link saying Send Waypoint to my Garmin.   You'll have to use a work around for that task.  

Downloading Waypoints to GPS Unit 

  Plug the connector cord into the GPS unit.  Plug the usb end of the connector cord into the PC. port on the front.   Turn the unit on.  Open Garmin Basecamp.  You will see a green line and the name of your GPS unit on there, and be able to tell the computer recognizes the unit.   It is communicating one to another.   Open Tennessee Landforms.  I wanted to save Bandy Creek Falls GPS coordinate.
I opened that page and on the bottom of it under the GPS section to the left.. click on the 

download just this waypoint  and it will download it to your computer.

Go to Garmin Basecamp and click FILE at the top left.  It will give you a drop down menu.  Click Import Into My Collection.  It will open another small window and allow you to search for the file which should be under downloads.   Left Click on the file highlighting it. Then click OPEN.  It will bring that file up at the bottom left of Garmin basecamp.  It will have numeric symbols and letters so go ahead and name it now by right clicking and finding RENAME in the drop down menu.
Once you've done that right click again and look for SEND TO in the drop down menu.  Go to this
and left click on it. It will open a dialog box and give you locations to send it to.  Use your mouse to scroll down to your GPS unit name and  left click that. It will download the waypoint to your device.

Go into your GPS unit under Recent Finds and the new waypoint should be at the very top.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

How to Use Tennessee Landforms-- Part 2-- The More Advanced User

How to Use Tennessee Landforms-- Part 2-- The More Advanced User

Dana Koogler 

Thursday August  23. 2018

   I wrote a recent tutorial on How to Use Tennessee Landforms.  It is a database that catalogs all the 
various land features in the state of Tennessee providing gps coordinates and maps to help locate them.  It is a helpful tool for those who like to explore or adventure.   I wrote it because while I am
pretty adroit at using it .. I have had a long time to practice.  I kept that first blog tutorial very basic.
It is not good to overwhelm folks with the $1 version when all they need right now is 50 cents. 

   I ran across touch points in writing that jumped out at me as being helpful, but for another category
of user.  Either beginners who after getting acclimated will soon move on to more in depth uses or hardcore map geeks like me.
You can bet if I can do it.. it isn't that hard.   I went back through that entry and pulled out the salient points that could be expounded upon.   I hope for you explorers, adventurers and map geeks you will find this fun and useful.  

How GPS Works

  GPS stands for Global Positioning System. GPS works like this. You turn the unit on and it will generally say "Acquiring Satellites" as it warms up.    It will communicate with them by bouncing radio signal between the unit and the satellites.   GPS uses triangulation but it uses four satellites to
measure position in 3D.  All the satellites clocks are set to exactly the same time.  Each satellite knows its exact position because of the system controllers inputting information.  Each satellite transmits its position and time stamp.  The signals arrive at the receiver delayed by the distance traveled.   The difference in distance traveled make each satellite appear to have a different time.
The receiver or GPS unit calculates the distance to each satellite and can then calculate its own position.   If you are holding the unit that is also YOUR position on the globe.

  GPS Coordinates

  There are numerous types of GPS coordinates or waypoints.  The easiest and most common to use
is decimal degrees. That would look like this.
36.499400,-84.653060 Angel Falls Arch in Big South Fork 

On Tennessee Landforms to the top right it has a box with numerous types of GPS coordinates for 
different systems and even a conversion tool.  

Looking at the box the digital degrees is up top. Right is latitude and left entry is longitude. 
Next below that is Degrees decimal minutes.. we used that for a long time simply because that was what our Garmin GPS unit was set up for originally.  It is rather outdated. 
Below that is Degrees minutes seconds. 
Finally at the very bottom is UTM .. which stands for Universal Transverse Mercator 
this is used by the military.   
FEMA uses something called USNG system or United States National Grid. 
I have a limited understanding of the last two.  I can say they are very useful in narrowing down a search to a very small area say within the space of a parking spot!  That is pretty accurate.

You can change most GPS units to use various waypoints and I'll try to get into that further down the tutorial. Both decimal degrees and degrees decimal minutes can be plugged into Google maps as a location.  Inputting degrees decimal minutes is harder and takes a bit of practice to get it to work.  You put in one wrong mark and you'll get a "Cannot Parse This Location" error message.
Ask Brian Solomon if you doubt me. 😊

36° 29.964'N84° 39.184'W
36° 29' 57.8"N84° 39' 11"W
16S 710200E 4041903N
convert to NAD27

Angel Falls Arch 35x15


How To Pull Waypoints from Google Maps & Cal Topo 

  Once you get to reading maps and exploring you may want to zero in on some obscure spot.
How are you going to know exactly how to reach it if there is no trail or road?  Having the GPS coordinates for it will surely help.   It is possible to lift coordinates directly from Google maps and Cal Topo if you know how.  You may have to convert them if your GPS unit does not use decimal degrees, but I'll tell you how to do that in the next section.    

    Let's say you think there is a waterfall at a certain spot on a stream because you looked at the satellite view and there is a stream with lots of white water.  Looking at the terrain makes you believe even more strongly that there should be a waterfall there.   Let's figure out how you can go check to see if you're right.  Go to the spot on Google maps where you think the falls should be.  Left click over it with your mouse. It will bring up a tiny gray and white marker.  Down below it on the map will appear a box and in faint gray lettering will be the waypoints for that exact spot.   Copy it by either writing it down or by copy/paste.  (Left click to highlight it.  Right click to bring up copy and then left click on copy)  Paste it to wordpad or whatever you want to print it out or save it.
Until you enter it into your GPS unit. 

For doing this with Cal Topo it is a little harder.  Cal Topo is harder to tell if you have the marker taken right where you want and then vet it (double check it) later.   We'll discuss Vetting waypoints on down the line in this tutorial.  

Bring up Cal Topo and enter where you want to search. Black Creek Oneida TN

When it comes up look at the creek and say you see where you believe a falls exists.  The cursor on Cal Topo is a tiny white hand.   Move it over the spot you need.  Leave it there.  Look over to the upper right of the map. The top number is decimal degrees waypoint to use.   Copy that down. I have never had any luck getting Cal Topo to copy cut paste for me.  I don't know why.
Just write the number down or enter it in your GPS unit.   

Waypoint Conversion

   Before I knew how to change our GPS unit to where it would automatically use decimal degrees I taught myself to convert waypoints from one type to another.  I am not mathmatizer so I used an app to do this.    I never have to do it now, but it is good to know how in a pinch.
Lots of apps out there can do this for you, but the simplest one I found was 
Boulter GPS Converter

Open Boulter and the box at the top .. plug in whatever waypoints you want converted. Click convert and map. Let's say its back in the days when I was having to do this prior to changing our GPS unit to decimal.   I'd plug in the decimal degrees 36.499400  -84.653060 and in my case I needed them converted to degrees/decimal minutes  it comes out looking like this 
N 36 29.964W 84 39.184
 Once I got them converted on Boulter I could look at the map and see if they were where they should be.  If they should up right on the map I was set to use them.
If you are using another app you will want to double check the waypoint after converting it.
And that leads me to the next topic.

Vetting Way Points

    Any time I converted waypoints, pulled them off a map or got them from someone else... I always plug them in on a map.  Way points on Tennessee Landforms are already vetted so I usually don't check them first. I will already have studied the map and done plenty of looking to see if it is valid.
If I pull a waypoint off google maps or whatever.. I take time to plug them back in on another map to see what happens.  Let's say I pulled coordinates off someone's website  giving me directions for how to reach Grassy Knob Lookout Tower.  I would take those waypoints and insert them in the search box on Google maps to see if they take me to the right area.
If you plug these waypoints into the search box they will work fine.

N 36.387222° W 084.611389°--Decimal degrees
N 36° 23.233' W 084° 36.683' Degrees minutes seconds  will also work fine in this form
 N 36° 23.233' W 084° 36.683 degrees decimal minutes are also fine.

If you insert these you must put them in as shown OR you may use decimal degrees plugged in like so.

36.387222 -084.611389 

If you plug them in some other way.. it will not be able to figure out where you are and give you a white screen or unable to parse this location error.   

example of the WRONG way to use them 

36.387222° W 084.611389° inserted will result in Maps can't find 36.387222° W 084.611389°

This is case sensitive. Like passwords can be touchy about making sure to use all lower case or caps. They must be EXACTLY right.    What did I do wrong inserting the above waypoint?  Left off the N for North.

Also if you are NOT going to use N and W you must insert the minus sign - between the latitude and longitude to make it work.  Easy mistake to make.

Fun Things--Getting More Out of Your Adventures

   I have looked over the blog entry thus far and that seems like a pretty good second chunk of
knowledge to absorb and digest.  I think I'll wrap this blog entry up here with something light.
I'll write a third part to get the rest of it.   Nothing puts me off quicker than trying to absorb too
much at once.   It can be rather dry and make you wonder why you wanted to read this stuff or learn it in the first place.
Second Pre-Trip Review of Nearby Landforms List 
   One  easy and fun pointer for using Tennessee Landforms is to remind the user to review
the Nearby Landforms a second time after you've been through it once.   Give it a break and before your trip go back and look at it again.   It sounds silly, but you might be surprised.   I found I became
a little over confident and would see the name of some feature on the list and in my head think "oh I have looked that over before. It didn't look too thrilling." Sometimes I'd be right, but sometimes I'd be very surprised!   New photos may have been added that show a land feature to be far more interesting that I had believed. I might be confusing it with something else.  I have found out there were two falls in a given area that had such similar names they were off by one letter!  Maybe I'd seen the one already, but not the other.   

Seeking  Additional Info on Listed Landforms

  Another great way to find out if places are really worth visiting is to seek other sources of info
on them outside Tennessee Landforms.  It stands to reason that 1. If the places are really great they 
will be visited by others and there should be more photos or videos or trip reports out there.  and 2. if you are one of the folks who likes obscure locations any info you do find on it while limited may be
provided by folks like yourself who will take great photos, videos, or write up trip reports etc. on the super cool out of the way spots.   

Some excellent places to start are Flickr photo where you could find images of a spot by doing a search for them.  

Trover  which is another free, user sourced online photo database.  You enter your photo and then put the location and what makes it special. It is a treasure trove of photos and info. I love it.  

You Tube--search for videos of places.  Some folks will add drone footage or video journals of places they visit.  It has turned out to be a far better source of info than I'd ever believed.

Facebook is another surprising source of info.  I have found some very out of the way stuff on there!
You may find an individual or a group or page or community that can provide you with photos, videos or directions how to reach something you want to see.

Google maps can be an excellent source of info just by itself.  Google tags and includes photos of lots of interesting areas and features. Always worth taking a quick look.

Broaden Your View of Maps 

   I will look at an entry on Tennessee Landforms and go through all the steps I have discussed
in this entry and in part 1.  It is still a good idea when you are in the map view to zoom in and out a bit using the + and - signs. Why?  I was looking for info on Skull Creek Falls in Big South Fork area the other night.  I was zooming in and out in Cal Topo view and shifting the map position around by dragging it.   I zoomed out and very plainly spelled out a little further east of where I was looking was  Grassy Knob Lookout Tower.   I had never even heard of this before!  In all my browsing and
using this database and others that had eluded me!   The point is that lots of cool stuff is written on the map to recognize and go see while you're in the area. It is a lot for anyone to take in all at once.
Just play around with it and look, look again!   It is a fun and interesting hobby.  Half the fun
of trips is in the planning and anticipation. 

Once you know of a features existence and name you can do a google search for additonal info on it.
I now know that tower exists, where it is, what it looks like, history about it, and that it was added to the National Registry of Historic Sites.