Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 by Travel_and_Outdoors
My love for maps started when I was a little girl. Every summer my parents would load up the car, stick my brother and I in the back seat and head off for a two week drive cross country to whatever vacation destination they had in mind. Two weeks in the back seat of a car with my brother led to a lot of “You’re on my side of the seat!” and “Stop touching me!” and “Mom! He’s looking at me again!” To distract us my mother would give us the road atlas and tell us to figure out where we were on the map, and how far we had to go before we could stop. I felt so important being in charge of the map; our vacation destiny lay in my hands! Happily I would trace out the route we were driving, a finger lingering over such exotic places as “big little lake” or “desolation creek” wondering how I could get my parents to stop for a quick visit. A map was not just a distraction, it became a possibility.
Recently, I read paper maps were going out of fashion, what with people relying more and more on google maps and their own gps. It makes me sad to think of a world with no paper maps. Imagine, no more perfectly folded paper maps with their crisp edges just so; waiting to be unfolded that first time, and never to be folded correctly again. No more getting a map of the city you want with all the outlying cities that you don’t really care about, but hey, who knows? You might just pay a visit now that you have a map.
William Least Heat Moon understood the lure of the map in his quest to drive the blue highways across America “On the old highway maps of America, the main routes were red and the back roads blue. Now even the colours are changing. But in those brevities just before dawn and a little after dusk – times neither day nor night the old roads return to the sky some of its colour. Then, in truth, they carry a mysterious cast of blue, and it’s that time when the pull of the blue highway is strongest – when the open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself.” I suppose you could take the same journey using Google maps but it loses something in the translation when all it takes is a click to put yourself at street level and see what is there. The thrill of the paper map is in imagining the unknown.
But I’m not one of those who rail against technology, dreaming about a return to the horse and buggy days. In fact one of the coolest outdoor activities I’ve tried is geocaching. It’s the perfect combination of old fashioned map skills and high tech. Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants log in a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. I’ve found caches in city parks, my neighborhood, and yes, even outside my local library!