Hyperlapse Tool Takes Google Street View To A Whole New Level

Google Street View was a boon to desk- and couch-bound wanderers when it debuted back in 2007, but even the most fervent Street View explorers would agree that the endless clicking is a bit of a chore.

Enter a free online tool that uses Street View images to create a personalized animated road trip. The Hyperlapse tool, created by a Toronto design company, lets you choose any two drivable points on the map, and then stitches together the Google Street View images to create an animation that you can pan around in real time.

The above video demonstrates the hyperlapse tool’s remarkable capabilities. The montage includes drives past major American landmarks and through other countries like Denmark Slovakia, Canada and Australia.

The online interface currently only provides basic point-to-point animation with a locked frame rate, so a two-hour drive like the one I animated from Montreal to Ottawa will take but a couple seconds. However, the featured hyperlapses, which show custom-made drives through the places like the Australian outback and Yosemite National Park are well worth a look. No word yet on when we will be able to animate trips to Street View’s more unique destinations, like up Everest or down the Amazon.

Yosemite’s Largest Glacier Has Stopped Advancing

For years we’ve heard environmental scientists and researchers tell us how climate change is having a profound effect on glaciers across the globe. In many parts of the planet, increased temperatures have caused the giant sheets of ice to dramatically recede or disappear altogether. That process has now begun to take place in one of America’s most iconic landscapes – Yosemite National Park.

Last week, the National Park Service announced that Lyell Glacier, the largest inside the park, has stopped advancing and is losing substantial mass. The NPS, working in conjunction with the University of Colorado, conducted a four-year study of the glacier, measuring its movement by placing stakes along the ice and recording their positions. Over that four-year period, those stakes didn’t move at all. The study also conducted research on the nearby Maclure Glacier, which runs adjacent to Lyell. The findings indicate that it is still advancing at a rate of about one inch per day, despite the fact that it has lost nearly 60% of its mass as well.

Glaciers build up over thousands of years due to the accumulation of ice and snow in mountainous areas. When they grow large enough their mass, combined with melt water, causes them to slide down hill at a generally very slow, but powerful, pace. When they stop moving altogether or start to retreat, it is because they no longer have the mass or moisture to push them downhill. This has increasingly been the case with some of the largest glaciers across the planet.

Research will continue over the next few years as scientists will record a host of climate data in and around both the Lyell and Maclure Glaciers. They’ll monitor the thickness of the snowpack, range in temperatures and rate of ice melt in an effort to further understand the effects of climate change on the two bodies of ice. It seems clear, however, that warming temperatures have already begun to have an effect.

[Photo Credit: Greg Stock]

Video: One Day In Yosemite National Park

On June 26 of last year, 30 filmmakers descended on Yosemite National Park to take part in a very interesting project. They spread out across the park’s 761,000 acres in an effort to capture the essence of a single day in that iconic place. They shot footage of the landscapes, wildlife, visitors and staff. They managed to record images from that day that were both sprawling in scope as well as intimate and personal. And at the end of the day, everything they captured on film was turned over to Steven Bumgardner, the park’s official videographer, who compiled everything into the stunning short film that you’ll find below.

Ever wondered what a day in Yosemite is like? Watch the video and find out. Enjoy!

National Park Service Puts Permanent Caps On Half Dome Hikers

Yosemite’s Half Dome is one of the most popular and iconic sites in the entire U.S. National Park system. It is so popular in fact that in 2010 the Park Service was forced to institute a provisional set of guidelines that required hikers to have a permit before attempting to make the long trek to the top. Last week the NPS announced that the temporary system would now become permanent, limiting the number of hikers to just 300 per day.

Prior to the permit system being instituted in 2010, the number of hikers on the Half Dome trail were often excessive. During the peak season the 14-mile route would often average more than 400 hikers on weekdays and as many as 1200 on holidays and weekends. This caused overcrowding, particularly on the 400-foot ascent to the summit, which employs a series of cables to help hikers safely climb to the top. Traffic jams were not uncommon on that stretch of the hike due to the steep and physically demanding nature of the trail. Those delays could often prove dangerous as long lines of people waited for hours for their chance to climb the granite dome.

In an effort to improve safety on the trail and preserve the natural environment around Half Dome, the NPS decided that a permit system would be a wise choice. When they launched the system nearly three years ago the daily limit was set to 450 hikers, but in their announcement last week, the Park Service has reduced that number to 300. About 225 of those would be day hikers while the remaining 75 would be allotted to backpackers.In addition to limiting the number of daily hikers, the Park Service is also using a lottery system to award most of the permits. The preseason application for the permits will open March 1 and run through March 31 and will be available at Recreation.gov. The winners of those permits will be alerted by email on April 15, so if you’re planning on hiking Half Dome this year, it may be wise to select your dates ahead of time and apply for your permits early. The cost of the permit is $4.50 for the application and an additional $8 per person if the permit is actually awarded. An additional 50 permits will be available in a daily lottery up to two days ahead of time throughout the rest of the year.

While this permanent permit system puts serious limitations on the number of people who get to enjoy Half Dome on any given day, I think it’s safe to say those limitations are for the best. Not only do they make the trail safer, they also provide a lot more solitude for those who get to walk it. That makes for a better experience in Yosemite, which is something I think we can all appreciate.

[Photo Credit: Av9 via WikiMedia]

National Parks Are Fee-Free November 10-12

America’s national parks will be fee-free once again next weekend as the nation celebrates Veteran’s Day. Beginning Saturday, November 10 and running through Monday, November 12, all parks in the U.S. system will waive any entrance fees for visitors, making this a great opportunity to enjoy the fall weather in some of the most scenic and historic locations in all of North America.

While many of the parks are now past their peak period for enjoying the autumn colors, not all of the leaves are down just yet. Next weekend would make a great time to take a hike in the Great Smokey Mountains or Yosemite for instance, where the seasonal change is still in progress. For those of us who live in the south, the weather has finally cooled off, allowing us to head outside after another long summer. That makes locations such as Big Bend, the Everglades or even the Grand Canyon much more appealing. Even the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park still has 29 miles open for visitors who want to experience that pristine environment ahead of the arrival of winter.

Over the past few years, the fee-free days in the national parks have become incredibly popular with visitors and 2012 has been no exception. The Park Service hasn’t announced their fee-free dates for 2013 just yet, and next weekend is the final opportunity to take advantage of this option for this year. It seems like it’ll be the perfect time to load up the car with friends and family and visit your favorite park or explore a new one.

For a complete list of parks, sorted by state, that will be participating in the fee-free weekend, click here.

[Photo Credit: National Park Service]