Our Best Trip Ever - Part 1 - The Planning

It had been just under five years since Deb and I ventured east to one of our favorite locations in the west, the La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona, and BNSF’s Seligman Subdivision. After completing a major project at work, I felt the need to take a respite so, in early April, Deb and I made plans to head east.

After garnering the necessary approvals for my vacation time at work, I set about to planning the trip. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I am, more often than not, meticulous in preparing for a trip. I like to research shooting locations, points of interest, accommodations, and the like so that I can optimize our time spent in the field photographing trains and ensure that we have a good time.

Considering the stress level I was under at work, and Deb’s need for some time away from it all, I concluded that we should take a few days to chill and get grounded once again before we set about chasing steel. The perfect place to do just that was at the La Posada Hotel. We would make the La Posada destination number one.

Having been to the La Posada before, I was versed in the ample opportunities for photography that the location afforded us. I didn’t need to “research” that aspect of the trip. We had also shot photos of the Seligman Sub in years past but we didn’t have our truck and camper, like we do now, which allows us tremendous freedom - both in access and self-sufficiency. We were free to camp literally anywhere. As such, I wanted to find some of the more picturesque and remote locations that we missed on previous trips.

I turned to the almighty Google to assist in the research effort. One of the sites that Google returned in my search results was Brett Wirick’s excellent “BNSF’s Seligman Subdivision” site. Brett’s treatment of the Seligman Sub was invaluable and served as the basis for laying out the locations that I wanted to visit and describing the routes to get there. Another great site on the subject was Jon Adam’s BNSF Southwest Division Seligman Subdivision site. (Thanks for the ATCS info Jon!)

Armed with all the research data and possible shooting locations in mind I began to layout our trip. I looked for a map that would fulfill my needs and didn’t find one that I felt was suitable and portable enough. I wanted a planning map showing the entire route with notations of all of the possible campsites and key points along the way. Being a licensed amateur radio operator, I also wanted to note all of the key radio frequencies that might be handy during our venture. (I like to be informed.)

After scouring the web, I decided to purchase a Mac mapping application called Ortelius, from Mapdiva, LLC. I took some time to learn the nuances of the application, and of cartography in general, and created a couple of maps for our journey. The first one I created was the overview map with all of the relevant details for our trip clearly noted:

Our “Planning Map” showing key locations and address info, radio frequencies, and our tentative schedule and plan.

The next map I created was a detailed map of the Crookton Cut-Off which was a special portion of BNSF’s Seligman Subdivision that we were going to focus on:

BNSF’s Crookton Cut-Off - A detailed map I made complete with control point locations, milepost markers, and potential access points.

The beauty of this mapping solution was that I now had a custom map that held all of the information in one location and could be quickly referred to using one of our iPads. To accomplish that I exported the maps as Adobe PDF files and transferred them to the iPad. I quickly found out that the native iBooks application was rather slow at rendering the large files. I searched for a solution and found a great application from Avenza Systems, Inc. called, appropriately enough, “PDF Maps.” This application pre-renders the maps, which increases their storage size on your device, but the trade-off is lightning fast rendering of the maps. Perfect, just what I wanted. Oh, did I mention that it is also free?

Now that we had planned our trip we made reservations for a two-nights stay at the glorious La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona. We were still about two weeks out at this point and I couldn’t wait for the trip to begin. I prepared our truck in the intertrim and waited like a kid in line at a bathroom. “I wanted go!”

(Over the course of the next few posts I will recount our trip and share some of the 6,500 some odd photos that we took. It was a great trip!)

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Reader Comments (1)

Can't wait for the next installment

May 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterUncle Roger

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