Sunday, July 31, 2016

Pokemon Go or Pokemon No?!

If you have logged on any social media for the past month, you probably saw a post from a friend about the new smartphone app: Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game that encourages people to go outside and play along with Pokemon.  Alright, I don't know exactly how it works, but I do know that this application is making people leave their houses in order to collect supplies, capture pokemon, battle gyms, and of course, meet new (and real-life) people!

At first, I thought this was going to be a silly game that was only going to be popular for about a week.  However, with its popularity, the servers went down often, but that didn't stop people from wanting to play the game.  The game is something special to individuals, especially to the millennials.  You see, when I was around 6 years old (year 1999-2000), I remember Pokemon being really popular.  I remember seeing the different trading cards, but I had no idea what they meant-- and to be honest, I still kind of don't know what they mean.

Nevertheless, Pokemon was a staple for the millennial generation that ignited the love for anime tv shows, trading cards, and of course, video games!  I remember my neighbor had a GameBoy that he played Pokemon on.  He was nice enough to let me play, but I honestly still had no idea what I was doing-- at this point, I was in the 3rd/4th grade.

Since I didn't have consoles to play video games on, I didn't really have the passion for pokemon like others do.  However,  I use Pokemon Go as an opportunity to re-live my video game deprived childhood.  (Okay, my childhood wasn't that bad.  I actually loved playing outside and playing computer games!).

With the help of social media, everyone can state their opinion whenever they can, and in fact, many people complain how this new Pokemon Go is silly and pointless.  Well, one can say that about anything!  Candy crush, Geocaching, Neko Atsume, Boom Beach, etc.  If there is a game that interests you, play it!  We live in a world where we have thousands of games at our fingertips, and there is actually something there for everyone!

Now, who do I see playing Pokemon Go? Answer: EVERYONE.  Yes, people of all ages, races, and religions.  Why? Because it is a game that revolves around your movement and your environment.

And-- this is why I like the game, and this is how this game relates to my blog: it uses geospatial features to determine your location, and it encourages you to travel to new places to gather supplies, battle gyms, and of course, collect new Pokemon.

So the people that created Pokemon Go are the same people that created Ingress, another smartphone game that uses your location to play  the game.  You see, these "poke-stops" are mostly unique locations that have a symbolic feature to its surrounding area.  In Flagstaff, most of these stops are plaques, statues, and artwork.  You see, this encourages geo-tourism since you can learn a lot about a city's history and culture with the help of your handheld GPS device.

But what I think I love most about this game is that it wants you to leave your house and explore hidden gems around your town.  Many people miss out on the history and culture of their city.  Even though I've only lived in Flagstaff for a year, I am already learning a lot about Flagstaff because of this game.

So, I think Pokemon Go is a great way to play a game while also moving and exploring the town/city that you're in.  Obviously, don't go to places that make you uncomfortable, and ALWAYS PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR SURROUNDINGS.  Don't walk into people, don't walk into oncoming traffic, and don't go in dark alleys by yourself!  Even if you are texting in walking, you should still do this.  I think people are getting too caught up into the game, that they forget about the real-world.  If you have good spatial skills, you can determine where upcoming pokestops are on the map, and your phone vibrates when a "wild pokemon" appears.

Use common sense, get outside, learn something new, and of course, have fun!  Brandon and I went to a meet-up two weeks ago, and there were at least 100 people there.  I've seen events for Pub Crawls and Flash Mobs.  My advice: always go with a friend-- use the buddy system.  Plus, it's more fun when you have someone with you!

Have fun!  Collect them all! :)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Denver/ Geowoodstock 14er Trip

Brandon and I took a small 3-day trip to Denver, Colorado to participate in America's largest Geocaching Event.  GeoWoodstock is a geocaching Mega Event that attracts people from all over the world.  Last year, Brandon and I had the opportunity to attend the event in Boonsboro, Maryland. We had a great time that we decided to go again this year; however, the event this year took place in Denver!

This would be my second time in Colorado.  When we took our roadtrip out West during our move, we drove straight through Colorado on I-25 South.  Yes, I thought it was beautiful, but didn't actually see its beauty until this trip.

We left Flagstaff on July 1, since I booked a three-night campsite at Cherry Creek State Park on the Southeast part of Denver. I wanted to leave around 6am, but we didn't actually hit the road until 7:30am.  Which meant, that we probably won't get to the state park until 8:30 or 9pm.  This can be a problem sometimes because parks and even other campgrounds sometimes lock the gates around 10pm or 11pm.

The Four Corners

Well, since we were making the 11 - 12 hour trek to Denver, we decided to add an extra 45 minutes to check out the ever famous Four Corners National Monument!  This has been on my bucket list ever since I learned about it in the 5th grade.  At this location, you have the opportunity to be in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado at the same time!  I guess if you want to get technical, you are actually in the Navajo Nation the entire time...but hey, it's still pretty cool!
So, this place is your typical tourist trap.  I think we ended up paying $5 a person, which is actually pretty expensive.  The weather was very overcast, but that didn't stop us from checking out this unique location.  We parked and used the disgusting toilets.  Then, we walked up to the monument and stood in line for almost twenty minutes to get our picture taken.  Luckily, the people in line were courteous and even took pictures for each other.  Once we took our pictures, we walked around to each of the different states.  As we were walking back to the car, it began to pour!

The Road Less Traveled? 

Foggy in Pagosa Springs, CO
Instead of jumping on I-25 North, we decided to take the longer, but scenic route to Denver.  We first drove through Mancos and then Durango.  Unfortunately, it was raining during this trip, but seeing the beautiful mountains was nice.  We drove through the San Juan National Forest, and stopped in Pagosa Springs to check out the awesome fog.  We continued North and went through the Rio Grande National Forest and eventually the San Isabel National Forest.  We reached an elevation of almost 11,000 feet and experienced temperatures in the 40s! 
We ended up arriving at Cherry Creek State Park around 8:30ish.  The office was open until 9pm, but there was not locked gate, so we could of came in later that night.  The State Park was really nice and was weird because it was in the city, but not in the city.  It w was definitely cheaper than a hotel room, though. 

Pikes Peak

On Saturday, the plan was to explore America's most famous mountain-- Pikes Peak!  This would be my first 14er, which was exciting for me.  However, we received a notification saying that the road was closed at 11,000 ft because the fog was too intense to drive up.  We were in a pickle!  I had planned our whole Saturday on doing Pikes, and didn't have a back up plan.  I suggested to Brandon that we could try to do Mt. Evans, another 14er, but we had no idea what the road conditions were like.  I also suggested checking out Rocky Mountain National Park.  Brandon decided for us to just go ahead and drive to Colorado Springs.  I said that we could do the Garden of the Gods if the road was still closed when we got there.  Well, we ended up getting there around 12:30pm, and they were letting people up the mountain.  When it was our turn to pay our admission, the ranger said that they had just opened the road back up so we could get to the top!
Clouds rolling away on Pikes Peak
The drive up the 16-18 miles was beautiful.  It was very similar to our drive yesterday.  It took us right around 45 minutes to get up the mountain.  When we go up there, the temperature was 34 degrees! We came prepared with our winter jackets, beanies, and gloves.  We were already wearing pants.  I was surprised of the amount of people who were in shorts with no jackets.  I remember seeing some people walking around with blankets on.  
We took our picture with the summit sign, and checked out the highest gift store in America.  We bought some cute souvenirs and then walked around to grab some of the geocaches. We probably walked around for a good hour taking some pictures.  It was really cloudy from all of the rain that was in the system.  In fact, it started to snow at one point!  
There was a brief moment when the clouds disappeared, and we were able to get some awesome pictures.  Before we went down the mountain, we went back into the store to get the world famous donuts.  Apparently, yeast cannot rise at 14,000 ft, so they have to use special ingredients to make the donuts rise.  I thought that they were good, but nothing too special. 
This was probably the highlight of my trip. Although we drove up, it was still beautiful and should be on everyone's bucket list.  Maybe one day i'll hike up it! 

The Oldest Geocache in Colorado

So as we got off the mountain, we quickly parked at the admission gate to use the restroom before heading back North to Denver.  As Brandon was getting out, a strange white vehicle parked directly behind us, and it was our friends Pat and David from Georgia!  They were trying to get up the mountain, but the had closed the gates already.  They said that that were now on their way to get the oldest geocaching in Colorado, so we decided to join them since it was only 30 miles away.  We got within 500 feet of the cache and hiked into the woods.  Apparently, the cache-owner had a birthday party at ground zero for the cache since it  was the 16 anniversary of its placement date.  The owner had cake and everything.  However, we missed the owner and the cake but still found the geocache in the woods.  This marks as the 7th state that we found the oldest cache in.  We spent the rest of our evening with Pat and David finding caches until we hit Colorado Springs.  We ate dinner at this BBQ place called Rudy's.  The BBQ sure did hit the spot! I got a baked potato with smoked turkey, since it was suggested by the police officer that was in line ahead of us. 

GeoWoodstock Mega Event

Geocache at the mega event
Brandon and I had a nice time at the event.  We spent the entire day there socializing and learning tips and tricks with our favorite hobby.  We saw some friends from Georgia, and I got a elk burger from a food truck! It was really hot and humid out, but we enjoyed ourselves. The same event will happen again next year, but this time in North Carolina, so we might have to make a trip out there! :)

Breweries Galore!

Jagged Moutain Flight
Colorado is known for craft breweries, and this year, the GeoWoodstock team did the lab caches based on a craft beer tour!  So, you go to the breweries and you get the password to claim a find for the lab cache.  On Friday, we stopped at Denver Beer Co. and enjoyed some pints.  This brewery had this "hipster" vibe, but it was still cool.  I ended up getting a raspberry wheat beer, which reminded me of a beer from Prescott Brewery in Arizona.  On Sunday, we stopped at Jagged Mountain Brew for a flight.  They had a lot of interesting beer choices.  My favorite for that brewery was the Cherry Wheat beer! Yum!  There are soooo many breweries in Denver; I would definitely like to go back someday.
After we were done at Jagged Mountain, we walked a few blocks over to the Mile High Spirits Distillery.  The bartender at Jagged said that they have the best Moscow Mules.  Well, they did!  They make their own vodka and ginger beer mix.  It was delicious!  We only had one drink there because we were getting tired.  So many good drinks in the city! 

The Trip Back Home

Colorado River at Glenwood Springs Rest Area
I looked at the map and saw that there was yet another way to get back to Flagstaff that wasn't I-25/I-40 bound.  We jumped on I-70 West and went through the Arapaho National Forest.  It was once again beautiful!  We also stopped at a rest area in Glenwood Springs, and IT WAS THE BEST REST AREA EVER!  I had to use the restroom, but this rest area gave you access to the Colorado River, and a bike trail.  It was so beautiful and just awesome.  
We ate lunch in Grand Junction at a Wendy's because the local burger joint that we wanted to try was closed on the July 4th.  We drove through Utah, and headed South to Moab.  The drive back wasn't that bad, but once we hit Moab, I was ready to be back home.

Overall, this was a great trip, and it made me fall in love with Colorado.  I have several friends that love Colorado, and now I understand why!  I wouldn't mind finding a job in that state! :) 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Open Space Aide: My Summer Internship with the City

This Summer, I had the opportunity to work with the Sustainability Department for the City of Flagstaff.  I work under the Open Space Specialist, which makes me the Open Space Aide.  I really like this part-time job since it combines my skills and knowledge on GIS, sustainability, and planning!

My Typical Work Week

So, I work 15 hours a week.  Which might not seem a lot, but when you are outside for 15 hours, you get very tired.  When I first started in June, I was going in around 8:30am and would get off around 1:30. I wanted to work three 5 hours days.  The three 5 hour days seem to work well for me.  I spend my extra two days catching up on chores and relaxing.  It is Summer, after all.
Since monsoon season has began (intense rainstorms),  I've been going in around 7:30 and finish right around noon.  The thunderstorms begin right around noon and into the afternoon.  I am not afraid of rain, but Flagstaff gets a lot of lightening activity.  If I see dark clouds form or hear thunder, I get to the vehicle as soon as possible.  I can always make up for my missed hours. 

What do I do, exactly?

Map of Observatory Mesa
Well, I walk around in the woods with an iPad! Well, it's not just anywhere in the woods, really.  I'm walking around 2,251 acres of Open Space land, which is known as the Observatory Mesa.  After a bond and a grant from the Arizona State Parks, the City of Flagstaff was able to obtain 4 sections on the Mesa as Open Space.  Since this land is considered Open Space, it will never be developed and will continue to serve as a space where people can hike, bike, horseback ride, dog walk, and even hunt on.  Since people have been using the land before the City acquired it, there are several unofficial trails and roads.  So, it it my job to walk around and record all of the trails, fences, and roads that I find.  Also, I record trash piles, points of interests (like awesome views), and illegal campsites. The City will like to eventually establish official trails, trash pick up activities, and do trail reconstruction on the data that I collect.  They want to see what is up there, so they know what they can/should do.
-Overall, I don't come across much trash.  I find some historic trash that must stay at its location.  Now and then, I find plastic wrappers and bottles that I just pick up and properly recycle when I get back in the office.  I've found more barbed wire piles at most.

What do I use?

As I stated, I use an iPad 2 that has the ESRI Collector app on it.  I use the app to record the trails, roads, and points of interest.  I have a Verizon HotSpot "JetPack" which gives me data while in the woods.  Lastly, I have a Garmin Glo, which is a GPS enhancer for the iPad.  It connects via bluetooth, and gives me an accuracy of 5 meters.  Also, I have a nice backpack to through all of my equipment in, and get to use a city vehicle on the mesa. 

Additional Tools I Use

I've been looking at Forest Service maps to see what roads are suppose to exist.  Also, I've been using OpenStreetMaps and Strava Heat Maps to see what information has been posted by the public.  

How Much Do I Walk?

On average, I hit my FitBit goal at 10,000 steps a day.  I vary from 4 miles to I think 7 miles one day.  The first section I walked was really flat, so it was easy for me to knock out several trails during one day.  The southernmost section drops significantly in elevation, which can make me extremely tired by 11am.  

Overall, it is a great summer internship for me.  I pick my own schedule.  I walk around the woods with a GPS.  And I use my spatial analysis skills to see where there may or may not be trails.  I haven't done much on the creation and designing of the maps, but that's fine with me.  I'm getting my steps while learning more about my field.

Here is more information on the City of Flagstaff's Observatory Mesa Open Space! :)