Points of interest to surveyors on vacation.

For many people, vacation is a time to escape from the day-to-day drudgery of work. But when you’re fortunate enough to have a job where the lines between work and play are blurred, there’s no need to leave your vocation behind. In fact, vacation just wouldn’t feel complete without it. Knowing how much surveyors love their work, POBasked readers to send us proof-or, as some family members might say, make a public confession. And you did. Sit back, kick your feet up and relax. It’s time to take a peek at the curious lives of surveyors on vacation.

Dear POB,

You should NEVER ask surveyors for pictures of the survey monuments they take on vacation! We all do it, and it drives our families batty. When I retire, I am going to do a coffee-table book and invite all my colleagues to submit their pictures! I once had my wife drive up on a sidewalk in the pouring rain so I could photograph a marker without getting out of the car!

Here is one I took at Quechee Gorge in Vermont a couple of weeks ago. I was traveling with my daughter and she had never been to the gorge, so we swung through so she could look at it. Of course, before we got onto the bridge proper, we saw this monument on the abutment, so she hid her face in shame as her old man stopped to take a picture of the ground. I can send a photo or two of the gorge if you would like, but who needs scenic Vermont when there are survey markers to photograph, right?

Next time you see Wayne Harrison (NSPS vice president), ask him about the ACSM convention in Las Vegas a few years back when he and I drove to Death Valley and then to Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. We photographed 50-some surveying markers on our journey. Hoover Dam was a survey marker photographer’s dream attraction. They were all over the place! WOO-HOO!

A. Richard Vannozzi, MS, PLS
Plymouth, Mass.

PS: Again I embarrassed my daughter while in California for the ESRI Survey Summit. She wanted to go to the Pacific Ocean to see a sunset. I had to interrupt some skateboarders so I could take the attached picture. The second picture was of a monument cover in Disneyland, which my family would not let me lift (to photograph the actual monument) for fear that security would escort me from the park.

Dear POB,
A few years ago, I took a vacation to the Florida Keys. I stayed at a very nice resort that was located on a key that was only accessible by boat. The place had about a dozen “cottages” plus a five-star restaurant. No telephones, and no televisions. It was very relaxing.

Anyway, I was told upon arrival that the island was about 5 acres. The longer I stayed there the more this bothered me. “No way is this place 5 acres,” I kept telling myself. I think it was my third day there that I couldn’t stand it any longer. I stepped off the distance around the circumference.

I do not have a picture of me doing this, but you may be interested to know that according to my calculations, the island was closer to 3 acres than 5.
Bruce K. Bailey, PLS, CFM
Baily Surveys Inc., Henderson, Ky.

Dear POB,
While vacationing with my wife, our son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, we ventured over to Dauphin Island, Ala. We happened to be waiting for the ferry to take us back to Fort Morgan. The kids and I got cabin fever during the lengthy wait and went for a short walk to stretch our legs. Who else but a surveyor would see a manhole riser as a backdrop for a photo? By the way, Evan and Emily are the cute kids posing for me.
Ronald W. Kirby PE, RLS, of Eads. Tenn.
City of Memphis Public Works Division

Dear POB,

This was more of an adventure than vacation, but I rode my BMW R1200GS ADV motorcycle to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. It is the farthest north road in North America and about 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The surveyor/geographer/cartographer part of me needed to be as far north as I could ride: N 70-12’07” Lat, W 114-27’56” Lon. It was 3,352 miles from my home in Ketchum, Idaho, and took me six days to get there.

That far north in the summer, the sun stays up 24 hours a day. A fellow surveyor in this area used to work in Coldfoot, Alaska, about 250 miles south of Prudhoe Bay. He was cutting line through the bush with a chainsaw when he found a fresh, half-eaten bull moose. Assuming that it was a grizzly-bear meal, he was happy that the bear was probably full and quit the job that night.

I did notice myself reading all of the stakes in the road construction areas and seeing what equipment the stake punchers were using.

Bruce Smith, PLS, of Ketchum, Idaho
Alpine Enterprises Inc.

Dear POB,
I must be either a very devoted surveyor or an extremely boring person, since I do not seem to be able to travel anywhere without looking for points! I spotted this homemade monument on Grand Turk Island last summer. I am attaching two pictures to show where my priorities must lie because I photographed the monument before looking up and taking the second picture.

Wayne Applegate, PLS, of South Amboy, N.J.
EKA Associates PA

Dear POB,
While on our return from Yellowstone a couple of summers ago, we stopped off for a visit to this point of interest. It was the summer of ’06, and we decided to see if we could find the initial point.

My oldest daughter Savannah, who was 7 at the time, and I made the 25-minute hike out to the point. We had the NGS data sheet for the mark, and we followed a dim trail out to the position.

Once on top, we used the fences in the distance to determine the location on top of the slight knoll. Then, as we approached the general area, we could see some fencing running along the ground and found the brass disk set in the stone, dated 1922.

It was a lot of fun hiking up to it, and I wish my wife and younger daughter, Joey Lynn, could've made the hike, too. But Joey Lynn was only 4 at the time, and it turned out to be more than she was ready for.

It was a nice view from the top and one that Savannah and I talk about often. Hope to head back again someday. It was neat being able to explain to Savannah, as we hiked along, all about the Public Land Survey System and why this particular point-out in the middle of nowhere-was such an important place. Who knows, might have a future surveyor in the family.

Tim Ferguson, LSI
MDT Great Falls District
Land Survey Crew

Real success is finding your lifework in the work that you love. -David McCullough

Dear POB,
I'm always seeking out survey monuments while I'm on vacation; it's our family joke about Dad's disturbed behavior of taking pictures of the ground.

Places I've taken pictures of survey monuments have been: Disney World-all the parks; South Dakota Badlands and Black Hills; Grand Canyon-South Rim; Minnesota/Canadian border; and The Four Corners (N.M./Colo./Ariz./Utah).
Tim Bell, IL, PLS

Dear POB,
I found this marker outside of Epcot. You can find them in various parts of the parks, also.
Eric Rollston, PS, of Lansing, Mich.

Dear POB, 


While on vacation, I am always on the hunt for a survey marker. Disney World is my favorite with the mouse ears in a brass disk. We have photos of me with monuments in Alaska, Arizona, Texas (at the Alamo) and then just photos of PK nails on a street in some city somewhere. You never know what’s going to show up on a camera (a roll of film in the old days). What I think is funny is even the family members are also on the lookout. It will be like, “Hey, Mom, here’s a survey marker.”

Once we were in Montana, and I was attending a NCEES meeting and was not with the family when they trekked out that day. My daughter Holly was 15 at the time and was so excited when they got back to the hotel. She informed me she found a survey monument that day and even took her picture with it. So there you go–it’s contagious.

Gail Oliver, PLS, CFM
County Surveyor, St. Johns County Land Management Systems
Surveying and Mapping/GIS Divisions
St. Augustine, Fla.

P.S. Holly is 27 now and still finding survey markers. That was this year in New York City.

Dear POB,
My wife and I were visiting Hendersonville, N.C., and came upon the bear. There were different themes all along Main Street. The artist for Surveyor Bear was Furlon Corn, and apparently it was sponsored by Laughter Austin Associates, Pa. This was on a brass plate at base.
Al Whitworth, PLS
Whitworth & Associates Inc., Lexington, S.C.

P.S. The kids in the picture are not mine. Mine are all grown, and I have 7 grandkids.

Dear POB,
Perusing through POB recently I came across your article regarding whether surveyors bring their work with them while on vacation. Quite obviously we can’t get away! While vacationing in Yellowstone National Park recently, I took this photo of a young woman doing GPS near Old Faithful. Although those native to the Greater Boston area are often equally as entertaining to watch, rarely are they as photogenic!
Jim Busweel, of Medfield, MA.
Surveying and Mapping Consultants

Dear POB,

While my wife, Jeannine, and I were camping at San Luis Creek, near Gustine, Calif., we also did some GPS measurements just for a little science project. Jeannine is my all-American adventure girl. This was a great camping trip, but it was hotter than blazes. Some of the days had temperatures over 105° F.

Phil Stevenson, PLS, of Silicon Valley, Calif.
N37°21'04.2" W121°56'06.4"

Dear POB,
This photo (taken by my wife) is me posing with a handsome international border marker on Monument Portage on day four of our recent five-day loop in Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. This was a return trip 40 years in the making for my wife (who served as a trip leader for two years during college summers at a canoe base camp near our Seagull Lake put-in) but my first visit to this wonderful area.
Doug Burnell, principal
H.E. Bergeron Engineers, North Conway, N.H.

 You've achieved success in your field when you don't know whether what you're doing is work or play.  -Warren Beatty

Dear POB,

My wife and I recently purchased property in remote Alaska. I had intentions on letting the property sit there until we retire. However, my adventurous spirit-that every surveyor has-got the better of me, and I set off to find the property and start building. I was accompanied by my father, brother and uncle who are all carpenters. Their expertise was to build on the property; it was up to me to find it.

After a six-hour flight from Chicago, I set my eyes on Anchorage for the first time. What a beautiful city. The streets are clean; the air is fresh; and the section corners are all marked clearly-beautiful.

We spent the first day in Anchorage gathering supplies. The following morning, we boarded a floatplane and headed 60 miles northwest into the unknown. We landed on a small, remote lake surrounded by mountains. After unloading our gear, we did what any good surveyor does in an unfamiliar area-we got our bearings and found north.

It is a lot different surveying in Alaska. If you look at the picture closely you will see a .44 magnum strapped to my hip. The gun gives you a false sense of security because, according to the locals, if I shot a grizzly with a handgun (even one that big), it would just make the bear mad. With this being one of the most dense populations of grizzlies around, we made sure to have at least one gun per man at all times.

Anyway, we were shooting for the center of a 5-acre parcel. I had a subdivision plat that indicated my property’s boundaries. There is only one other cabin within miles of my property, and-wouldn’t you know it-the cabin is on the parcel next to mine. That doesn't do much for privacy, but it did help me locate my parcel. I had to go against all my principles and begin my measurements off of the approximate shoreline. The only thing that helped me stomach this was the fact that I was aiming for a big target.

Well, long story short, we found my parcel and started building. It will be a long process, but we have plans to return in 2010. Although it was extremely hard work-and kind of dangerous-it was some of the most fun we have ever had.

Scott Spears, Survey Technician
Baxter & Woodman, Wisc.

Dear POB,

My wife, Janet, and I planned a three-week vacation in Colorado in July 2008 for sightseeing and to climb a few 14,000-foot peaks. After a marathon 32-hour drive from New Hampshire to Georgetown, Colo., and a well-deserved night's sleep in the motel, we headed south up the Guanella Pass Road to the trailhead of Mt. Bierstadt at 11,300 feet.

Due to the elevation, we had intended to hike around a little and acclimate. But one thing led to another, and three hours later, we were standing on the summit of our first 14,000-foot peak!

After taking the few required summit pictures, I noticed the USGS disk at the summit. Being involved in the survey and engineering field, I couldn't resist snapping a picture of the summit disk (14,060').

We beat all the thunderstorms and made it back to the car with only a minimal altitude-related headache. We ended up summiting three other 14,000-foot peaks, including Mt. Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado and the Rockies.

Perry Williams, Survey Technician, of Lyman, N.H.

Dear POB,

My wife and I found a Canadian survey monument on our honeymoon in Banff, Alberta, Canada, on July 3, 2008. Kate and I were on a horseback trail ride. It was my first time on a horse. Needless to say, I was looking ahead more than down and rode right past the monument. But Kate is more experienced with horses and was looking all around and saw what looked like “one of those survey thingies.” So, she told me when we got done with the ride. I asked her where on the trail it was. It happened to be close to a side street, so we parked at the trailhead and walked right up to the monument.

Jared Ransom, LSIT
Kent Land Surveying, Bloomfield, N.Y.

Dear POB,

One of my many weekend adventures in Northern Michigan this September was crossing the 45th Parallel in several places. One state marker in Traverse City claimed there was a 45th Parallel Park, but upon talking to some locals in Leland, I found out “the park” is a small section of picnic tables along the side of the road.

Courtney Fathers, Art Director
POB Magazine, Troy, Mich.


So, there you have it. Whether you’re a surveyor-or someone who knows and loves one-a vacation without surveying is pointless.