[Cdt-l] Maps & Guidebooks

Jonathan Ley jonathan at phlumf.com
Thu Mar 11 22:27:03 CST 2010

I think it really depends on how you learn about and navigate the world. 
Not sure if anyone here has studied different learning/communicating 
styles, but I think this has a lot of relevance:

Many people are primarily visual, in which case the maps alone might 
work. Others are more auditory or kinesthetic learners, who might work 
better with a textual description of where the trail goes.

Think about this... When someone asks directions from you, do you draw 
them a map? Or tell them where to turn?  

When you are driving around in the city, do you feel more comfortable 
looking at maps? Or reading directions?

If you catch a bus, do you need to know exactly which streets the bus is 
going down in order to figure out where you're going? Or do you just 
rely on the names of the stops?

Personally, I'm a much more visually-oriented person. For instance, when 
I print out directions from google-maps of where I'm trying to go, I 
only print the map, and could care less about the turn-by-turn 
directions. Others are just the opposite.

When I was on the PCT, I never read the trail descriptions. I just used 
the little guidebook maps. I would meet some other hikers and if they 
asked about some point on the trail, I'd point to the map. They'd 
reference some mile-point, or description that was in the guidebook. I 
could never figure out why they'd make it so hard on themselves to 
navigate that way. But, I've come to the conclusion that it just matched 
their learning style better. Or, maybe I'm just a crackpot ;-)

So, either or both approaches are good for different people -- we all 
have to hike our own hike. One thing though... out on a trail like the 
CDT, you do really need a map, as if you get off-route, directions won't 
help much. However, if you're not primarily a visual thinker, reading 
and using a map is likely to be harder for you. It's something you'll 
probably need to practice a lot to get right. There are a lot of books 
out there about navigation... I always recommend "Staying Found" by June 
Fleming, as I found it very well put together, and readable:
Also the mantra here is to "stay found" -- i.e. the key to not getting 
lost is to always know where you are. Always. With every step (i.e. no 
putting your head down for hours and getting lost in some iPod music 
then hours later trying to figure out where you went wrong).  Not quite 
as easy as it sounds...

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