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[cdt-l] topo maps

I've stayed out of the topo map/CD thing up till now but I was recently sent 
a copy of some of the maps that someone took off one of the topo CD's.  I 
finally got some time to take a good look at them today - it wasn't happy 
time.  Or maybe I should be happy that we didn't try to use them for our 

Personal opinion is that those maps are just plain inadequate.  For me, 
they're too hard to read and reading elevations is impossible.  Maybe it's 
cause I'm blind?  I won't speak to the accuracy of the contour information, 
but if I can't read it off the map, then it might as well not be there.

Anyway, other problems - they simply don't have the level of detail that I 
demand of a map for that kind of country.  Many of the trails aren't on 
them, and at the level of detail I'm seeing, I doubt if they show a lot of 
the jeep tracks that you need to keep track of in Montana and Wyoming - but 
I'd have to see more of them to be sure about that.

They also don't cover enough area - if you stray from the narrow corridor 
that they cover, you're well and truly lost.  The way they're cut, if you 
stray just a few miles, you're off the map and have no landmarks.  Someone 
out there wasn't paying attention when we were talking about how easy it is 
to get misplaced in that country.

The maps also don't allow enough leeway to be able to adjust your hike to 
make sidetrips - as we did, for example, by going through the Cirque of the 
Towers.  The one map shows the Cirque, but it also shows only enough of the 
area to get out of there by one route.  The route we took would be a 
complete mystery to someone carrying that map.  I think my problem here is 
that they're cramped and just make me feel claustrophobic.

Nor do they cover enough area to allow you to change your route if you run 
into weather problems, stream flooding or any of the dozen or so other 
factors that can influence (and interfere with) your hike.

They also don't give you the information you'd need to bail out in case of 
emergency.  With this kind of map, we'd have had no clue about how to get 
Ginny out when she got hurt.

One question is whether or not they show water sources across the Red Desert 
or in New Mexico.  Without that, I'd consider them to be useful only as 
firestarters. In the Winds, that's not a problem - there's plenty of water, 
but once you get south of there, you're into desert.  And there are rarely 
signs to point you to the water sources.

Personally, I'd rather carry the full size FS and BLM maps - they had 
problems and they lied to us regularly, but they were readable and we had 
the assurance that if we did stray, we'd have what we needed to navigate our 
way back to where we wanted to be.  Or to bail out if necessary.  Or if we 
wanted to change our route, we had the capability to do so.

For those who haven't been there - this isn't the PCT, much less the AT.  
You need better maps because a lot of the time you're not just following a 
well-marked and maintained trail - you're following a route.  There's a very 
large difference. We know of one hiker who had good maps and was lost for 4 
or 5 days and out of food before being picked up by some fishermen in 
Montana.  How hungry do you want to get?

Walk softly,

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