Long Range Reconnaissance

Maps and Charts
Man I just love looking at maps. As a youth I would make maps of my wooded areas and plot almost anything worth having a map to, fishing areas, favorite hunting grounds even individual Wood Chuck holes. Any time I need (or just want) to spend time in a new area or an area I have not visited in some time, I consult the maps first. This gives me a good idea of what I have to work with and might be up against.

I have both 7.5 and 15 min views of most of my favorite haunts. I study them constantly. If I can't be there on the ground scuffing boot leather then I can at least stay familiar with these regions via map.
These days good quality Topo maps can be hard to find. I once knew three or four good sporting goods stores that a hiker / hunter could obtain USGS maps from. Alas these stores are either out of business (I'm old) or they just don't sell enough to be worth while carrying a full stock of Topos. I understand but still miss searching bins of charts for dusty torn maps.

"Luckily" we now have access to useful chart info no further then our mouse and keyboards.
Programs such as Google Earth and Virtual Earth make previewing wilderness areas so easy it's almost like sight seeing.

Two dimensional maps are great and with practise an accomplished user can visualize the third dimension well enough to recognise what he/she is looking at.

Today with these programs we CAN identify clearings, streams, camp areas, individual trees, large rocks and animal trails in some cases.
(even a specific vehicle parked in your drive way if you're the jealous type)

I almost always start with the "road" map view to quickly locate the area of interest then move in with the satellite views.

Views on these programs can be manipulated and customized to suit your needs. Custom maps with your personal information can be printed.

Virtual pins and markings can be added to identify features.
A very helpful tool when introducing a new person to the area.

Entire trips can be planned via satellite imagery, hunting areas scouted (at least partially) and maybe most importantly this type of map review gives you an actual picture of your area not just a representation with details left to the imagination and interpretation of those in the group.

With views like these and the ability to scan 360' it is almost impossible to get lost. Much useful information can be gleaned from the comfort of your home. Used along with your GPS and SPOT messenger system (via Google maps link) we can really get the big picture.

I use these programs often and really enjoy the birds eye prospective. They are simple to use and can only help the wilderness traveler take full advantage of the terrain.

Safe Travels