What position do print maps play for outside adventurers in the digital age? Pisgah Map Firm’s Pete Kennedy has a number of ideas.
Pete Kennedy has never fearful about his capacity to make good maps.
When the primary batch of his first product arrived from the printer a decade in the past, he might see that, in fact, it coated the fundamentals — contours, summits, and trails. It was additionally clear and uncluttered, or as Kennedy likes to say, “easy on the eyes.”
However more than that, he had packed his map with so many particulars gleaned from his hours within the woods and had taken so much care in his selection of colors, symbols and fonts, that the end result was a sheet of tear- and water resistant paper that would “speak to people,” stated Kennedy, 48, owner and sole cartographer of Asheville’s Pisgah Map Co.
Nonetheless, Kennedy typically deals with the existential question for his company that tends to return up each time outside varieties gather: With the regular improvement in digital know-how, can we really need old style paper maps?
Based mostly on the gross sales of his products and rave evaluations from lots of his clients, the answer appears to be “yes,” and for most of the expected causes — the dimensions, scope, reliability, and unbeatable feel and appear of paper.
“For the first five or six years of doing this,” Kennedy stated, “I kept asking myself, ‘Am I really doing this? Can I really build a business on paper maps?’”
First think about all that Kennedy is up towards. Aside from help from an occasional part-time worker and his distribution- and bookkeeping-guru spouse, Haven, he works alone. From a bunker-like basement office in his North Asheville residence, he not solely faces off towards nationwide map corporations however an ever-growing array of ever-improving digital mapping sites and smartphone apps.
Bulky guidebooks have all however disappeared from pack pockets on the Appalachian Trail, replaced by the Guthooks Information app. Need to discover a less famous path? Sites resembling Gaia GPS, Avenza Methods, Trailforks and AllTrails supply access to huge collections of digital maps for a fraction of the cost of constructing a comparable paper-and-ink library.
Bob Levy, an avid hiker who has taught digital navigation courses for the Carolina Mountain Club, stated that accessing AllTrails on his house pc provides him plenty of perspective for planning hikes.
“I can bring up a map that covers as much or as little of the area as I like. I can load trails and draw new trails,” stated Levy, board chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute and a part-time Asheville resident. “I can even print a map that displays as little or as much as I want.”
He downloads digital journey maps on his telephone, which frees him of dependence on cellphone service and permits access with little drain on his telephone battery — two of the longstanding knocks towards digital navigation. Supplementing AllTrails with the MotionX app throughout hikes, he gets real-time elevation-gain updates that no conventional map can present. As a backup, he carries not a paper map, but a telephone recharger.
“I find that everything I want to do, I can do on phone-based apps,” he stated.
The Outside Business Association, which tracks spending in many outside recreation sectors, has no info available on the market share of digital mapping sites. But no one, least of all Kennedy, doubts that is increasing, as is the number of hikers, cyclists, anglers, hunters and paddlers that, like Levy, are snug utilizing them solely.
Kennedy has a preventing probability in this market as a result of he loves getting out within the woods as a lot as his customers do. He knows what they need in a map, is aware of the territory he puts on paper.
It’s what makes his maps higher than his rivals’, stated Bill Sanderson, a retired high school biology instructor who serves as Levy’s counterpart on the Mountain Club, leading courses on conventional map-and-compass navigation.
“That’s why I like his maps so much,” Sanderson stated, referring to the touches that display Kennedy’s deep familiarity with the southern Appalachian Mountains. “He’s obviously someone who knows the area well enough to put those kind of details in.”
That Kennedy spends a whole lot of time within the woods was obvious in a current go to to his residence office. A set of kayaks was stacked towards a storage shed. When Kennedy answered the door, he confirmed off the fit, compact build of an avid mountain biker, path runner and paddler.
Pete Kennedy inspects a map of Pisgah Nationwide Forest at his office in Asheville, N.C. / photograph courtesy Pete Kennedy
There is a double irony within the precise production of maps. For all of the speak about his personal and his buyer’s love of the outdoors, Kennedy stated, every new launch requires “hundreds of hours” cooped up inside, time he squeezes in between his duties as a full-time GIS mapping teacher at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Group School and father to five-year-old twin daughters. And merchandise forged as a low-tech selection can solely be produced utilizing advanced mapping software.
In his office—cluttered together with his assortment of paper maps and illuminated by a television-sized pc monitor—he exhibits how this software program allows him to construct maps in layers. The template of contour strains, roads, and name-worthy natural landmarks is downloaded from the federal Geographic Names Info System, or GNIS. He imports the boundaries of state parks and nationwide forests from different public sites and refines them with the detailed property strains obtainable at county web sites. He checks the accuracy of trails towards hikers’ online journey stories that embrace routes tracked with international positioning system (GPS) units.
When he discovered mapping at Clemson College, the place he acquired a grasp’s diploma in forestry, such tasks typically required writing code and hand-drawing strains. “Now it’s point and click,” he stated.
Not so with the other a part of the job, the part that faucets into his information of the woods and even sometimes requires him to go to them.
He’s aware, for instance, that the subject of his hottest map, Pisgah National Forest’s Pisgah Ranger District, consists of areas which are brief on outside points of interest. So he targeted on the part that is full of them, allowing him to make use of a larger scale, and to order the flip aspect for a zoomed-in view of the district’s Bent Creek Area, a magnet for native mountain bikers. Figuring out that a growing group of cyclists seeks out the district’s gravel roads, he marks exactly where the pavement ends, factors that don’t show up on most other maps or on public sites. To ensure he has these good, he heads out with a GPS gadget and “puts boots on the ground,” he stated.
Typically he builds maps on contract. That first one, for instance, was a map of Waterfalls of North Carolina, created to accompany Kevin Adams’ ebook of the identical identify. However his fundamental product is a path guide collection that, to date, focuses on seven of the preferred pure areas of the southern Appalachians, together with Pisgah Ranger District, Dupont State Forest and the Blue Wall of upstate South Carolina. He is within the last levels of manufacturing a map of the French Broad Area, north of Asheville, which incorporates the names of the rapids on the Nolichucky River.
He chooses such details as a writer would—enough to inform the story, not so many that it bogs down the narrative. “It’s like doing a research project or a book,” he stated.
And just as authors have accepted that digital formatting is a reality of life, Kennedy can’t afford to be a paper-and-ink purist. Though his major business is promoting paper maps for $14 every at pisgahmapcompany.com and at shops throughout the region, he also publishes his products on Avenza.
Lots of his followers use these variations at the side of the paper variety. However like most readers, they are saying you typically simply can’t beat a hard copy.
Eric Wever, who together with his wife, Erinna, owns Pisgah Productions, stated Kennedy’s paper maps are integral for planning the races his company levels, together with its signature occasion, the Pisgah Mountain Bike Journey Race. To make this a check of each endurance and navigation expertise, Wever doesn’t draw a selected route however picks five factors on a map. He leaves it up to racers to determine how you can reach at the very least four of them before returning to the end line. Creating a problem that’s tremendous robust however not fairly inconceivable requires a feel for the panorama that is greatest acquired by way of Kennedy’s maps, one among which he keeps posted “on the wall in front of my desk 365 days a year,” he stated. “I just move those little dots around until I get what I want.”
Racers don’t study of these waypoints till they arrive on the starting line, the place they huddle around a bit of required gear for the race, a Pisgah Map Co. map.
“They’ll put tiny rocks on all those places I’ve had on my map for a year, saying ‘How the hell are we going to get there?’” Wever stated.
Levy is strictly a day hiker and acknowledges that he may use a paper map if he ever decides to take on an extended journey. Greg Hardy’s enterprise and keenness, bikepacking, is all about prolonged journeys. He’s the owner of Rockgeist, near Asheville, which makes luggage and other gear for his sport. With a doctorate in supplies science, he’s a lot tech-savvy, however wouldn’t think of embarking on one among his adventures with out the reassurance of a paper map—ideally Kennedy’s, but other brands when cycling in areas that Pisgah Map Co. doesn’t cowl. Whereas navigating the dizzying climbs and descents of the 500-mile Colorado Path, for example, he reached the doubtless disastrous level where he was stopped brief by a fireplace closure.
“It’s brutal,” he stated, of the trail. “It covers the kind of terrain where you don’t want to backtrack and the reroute was way off the preloaded map on my Garmin. Fortunately I had a paper map so I could use that to get back on track.”
“I love (Kennedy’s) maps,” stated Katie Scheip, a ranger at North Carolina’s Chimney Rock State Park and a former scholar of Kennedy’s at A-B Tech. Serving on search-and-rescue groups on the job and as a volunteer with the Henderson County Rescue Squad has uncovered her to the value of Kennedy’s paper maps, which both businesses use to coordinate their efforts. Her work has additionally given her a close-up view of the hazards of inconsiderate dependence on navigating by sensible telephones.
“I see that with a lot with the people we end up looking for,” she stated. “Usually how it happens is, somebody goes into the woods and they think they know where they are going and their battery starts to die or they don’t have a good cell phone signal. So when their phone is just about to die, they call 911.”
Reliance on small digital maps additionally carries a extra delicate danger for outside lovers, Sanderson stated, a failure to appreciate their place in the broader panorama. Like drivers who routinely punch their locations into Google Maps, hikers who depend on apps can get from one level to a different without ever learning about their environment. It’s a apply that could be positive for assembly associates at a bar or displaying up at work appointments, nevertheless it defeats the whole function of a sport like mountaineering.
“Maybe it’s tactile, maybe it’s the broad view. But all of those things just make (paper maps) so much superior, at least for learning. If someone who has never had the experience of using a map or compass just picks up a phone with GPS and thinks they can navigate, I don’t think they ever really understand the lay of the land.”
They will get to the top of the guide, Kennedy may say, but never understand the story.