May 09 2009
Sure, we have the global positioning system (aka GPS), and we have the internet. They’re all useful resources and I frequently make use of them. So with digital maps and all that comes with them, why would anyone want to bother with paper maps, for goodness’ sake? That’s an easy one to answer—among other things, paper maps don’t run out of batteries. They survive wettings, don’t care what temperature it is, and can be easily annotated with a primitive device known as a pencil. I never leave home without a paper map—or a dozen, depending on where I’m going and what I’m doing.
Whenever I’m not sure how to get where I’m going, it’s a DeLorme Atlas & Gazateer I’ll consult first. I’ve got a stack of them, and someday hope to own all of them, covering the entire country. What’s more enjoyable on a rainy afternoon than to sit down with a map and trace out routes to places you’ve never been or to places you’ve not seen in decades? Maps and dreams go together, and while it’s wonderful to zoom in on the details of digitized 1:24000 topographic sheets, it’s not always possible. The next best thing is a DeLorme Atlas. You’ve never seen one? Then you’re in for a treat.
DeLorme Atlases are well bound, open flat, and they are published in a format which is large enough to be useful without being too large to handle. They show many little-traveled town and county roads, and this is very good news for touring cyclists trying to find a place to camp or paddlers trying to find an out-of-the way put-in. The Delorme maps also reproduce waterways quite accurately, and they include rudimentary topographic information as well.
Each pair of sheets includes a scale in miles and kilometers, latitude and longitude are annotated along the edges, and to make navigation easy, DeLorme indicates the pages where you’ll find adjacent maps. County and town lines are highlighted, and some atlases include detailed city maps. What else do you get for your money? A great aid to trip planning and exploration, that’s what. The gazetteer points out places to hike, bike routes, campgounds, scenic drives, canoe routes, fishing access points, information centers, and more.
Finding your way to specific places on the maps is as simple as checking the index for the place name. If you’re interested in a particular part of a state, the map sheet index is the way to begin—there’s one on the back cover and one inside at the front of each atlas.
Looking for a fun project which is also an eye-opener? Take a drafting compass and draw a circle with your home at the center. Make the radius of the circle equal to the distance you can cover easily in one hour’s travel: 30 miles by car, say — roads wander a bit, after all — or 10 by bike. Then draw another circle at double the radius, and a third at three times the original distance. Now inspect the area contained within your circles. Jot down the names of any trails, mountains, nature reserves, lakes, rivers, or stretches of coastline that catch your eye. You’ll be surprised how much you find, right on your doorstep.
A map can open up your world, and as a first step in planning your explorations, it’s hard to beat the DeLorme atlas series.