Thursday, July 25, 2013

A tale of 3.5 maps.

In prepping for expedition 2014 - which still doesn't have a name - I started as I always do by ordering a combination of charts and maps. The charts I order from NY Nautical. They are usually pretty good, but I had a few problems this time that I wont go into it. If you are a paddler and heading through New York City you must stop in there and buy a chart. Smitty knows his stuff incredibly well and it is an old world kind of place. So the last of my Charts trickled in over the course of two weeks. I also ordered from REI two trails illustrated charts of Prince William Sound. PWS west is topo map number 761, and east is 762. I already had a copy of 761 but it was pretty old, so I figured I would get a new one. It also had markings from a trip I did there in 2000. However, shortly after I ordered the two maps I realized that at some point I had bought a copy of map 761 - probably in 2008 when I was working for NOLS and paddling PWS. That meant I had three copies of the same map. I figured it was no big deal, I could probably sell or give one to another paddler in the group. But when the newest map arrived and I opened it up, I got a little surprised.

Here are the three maps #761, left to right, oldest to newest. I really love Trails Illustrated maps. They are beautifully made, waterproof, and easy to work with on the deck of a kayak. But this is what surprised me. Here are three pictures of Harriman Fjord. 

Despite my lousy photography you should see that in each successive version of the map there better detail. While these maps are made for hikers, clearly someone at Trails Illustrated knows that they are being used by kayakers, as we went from dots to silhouettes of kayaks to illustrate landing sites. We go from contour lines, to contour lines with some shading, to a lot of shading. We also get a large amount of shading in the latest map, and even a growing number of depth information. Clearly this is a good reason to update your maps! besides the fact that things like declination change, there are also updates to the details on these beautiful maps. Several months ago I also looked at the new trails illustrated online partnership with all trails. So, clearly if newer is better, these online versions must be the best, right? Unfortunately no. First it was hard to navigate to the right place on Because the maps are designed to be printed, I was easily able to make an 8.5 by 11 topo map in PDF form ready for printing. Here it is. 

While this is a great map ready to use - scale and declination on the bottom - it doesn't offer the detail or annotations of the paper maps. I would also have to print roughly 50 to cover the same info on the charts I ordered. So again, I am going to say that this online digital version isn't quite ready for prime time. But this is.

This is a satellite view of the same Harriman Fjord. Since we are going to see Glaciers, this view gives me a perfect view of where they currently - or at least when they picture was taken - lie in relation to the land. This is very useful, and I will undoubtedly print these out for many of our locations. Print them for reference while paddling. 

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