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[at-l] Maps - Negative stress on the trail.
>"...Are you guys thinking of particular instances on the AT where you would miss
wonders without a map, even when you carry a trail guide?"
Well, If by trail guides, you mean Wingfoot's book or the Companion, both help a hiker identify interesting things along a trail, but neither substitutes for a map. I like maps because I like to know as much as possible about the country I'm traversing. Why? Because life is short and few of us can do a long distance trail more than once -- maybe twice. I walk local trails scores of times a year -- only rarely without noticing something interesting that I had never noticed before. Maps are not a substitute for multiple explorations, but they help make best use of the time available for a long distance walk.
As for specific things you might miss, most are mentioned in the trail guides. But the details tend to be such that it is difficult to decide whether to explore a side trail, for instance, without a map. Gulf Hagas in Maine is a seven mile loop off the AT. The trail guides will tell you this. Only a map shows the intersections, the route of the loop, and the various shortcuts back to the AT. The same is true of numerous side trails to overlooks, waterfalls, historical attractions. Some such trails loop back to the AT. Others are in and out. Some are not even mentioned in the guides. A map provides the information needed for informed trail decisions.