May 01, 2010

Hand-Drawn Maps Can Be The Best

If you read this blog, you probably like maps. I have a file drawer full, with certain sets kept together in large plastic bags (SE Colorado, San Luis Valley, etc.).

Forest Service maps are good for driving around, but you have to infer the topography. Topo maps don't show public land boundaries. Our county is blessed with a semi-retired cartographer who produces excellent maps of all those mountain subdivision roads, but that is just for this county.

You can order topographic maps that put the area you want in the center, rather than on the edge.

There is still room for hand-drawn maps, writes Julia Turner in Slate. "No matter what it looks like, a handmade map offers several advantages over a road atlas or the directions you get from Google."

Another advantage of personal cartography: Homemade maps often include error indicators, signs that you've taken a wrong turn or gone too far. Steve Kortenkamp produced the map below—of Safford Peak in Arizona—for the young hikers in his son's Boy Scout troop. You can discern his concern for their well-being in the many warnings he includes: the "barbed wire" you'll hit if you take a wrong turn for the horse ranch, the "cave where you end up if you miss the turn" for the summit, and the "Bridge of Death," where hikers encounter a "sheer drop on both sides!" The map uses charming drawings to orient hikers, highlighting a saguaro grove and memorable rock outcroppings. Kortenkamp explains that he took such care because the trails are poorly marked, and stranded hikers sometimes "end up calling 911, clinging overnight to the sheer rock face, and finally being plucked by helicopter in the morning." Using this map, his son's Boy Scout troop fared much better.
See that and other maps here. (Via Arts & Letters Daily.)

1 comment:

smartdogs said...

I love maps. I put myself through undergrad school creating hand drawn maps, geologic cross-sections, stratigraphic sections, fossil illustrations and related work for professors, post docs and grad students (OK, I tended a little bar too).

Even back then (early 80's), computers were beginning to dominate the field and I was a bit of an anachronism.

I still think that there's an inherent beauty in hand drawn lines that a computer can't truly replicate.