Category Archives: Maps

2013 Iditarod Starts on Saturday

Dogs, mushers and fans poised for “The Last Great Race”

Iditarod2013-logoBack in January, the snow in parts of Alaska was sparse and/or soft, putting  trail conditions for the the 2013 Iditarod into question. They have improved, and “The Last Great Race on Earth,” as it is promotionally nicknamed, is ready for the ceremonial start in Anchorage on Saturday and the official restart in Willow the following day. Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to be in Anchorage for the start of the race. I hope that this post conveys the thrill and excitement of being there. I hope to experience it again in the future, and perhaps even the finish in Nome. Meanwhile, click here to see pre-race images from the 2013 Iditarod. I can’t post them here becaause the website’s gallery page instructions read “All photos in this gallery are by Iditarod Trail Committee. Reproduction prohibited without written permission from the photographer.

The teams follow the northern route in even-numbered years and the southern route in odd-numbered years.


My New Favorite Trail Map Series

Easy-to-use trail maps loaded with info for hikers, mountain bikers and winter users

We have every Trails Illustrated map of Colorado and beyond — in many cases, several increasingly comprehensive editions both before and after National Geographic took over publication. When I was putting things together for a trip that started in Steamboat Springs where I planned to go for at least one hike, I forgot to grab any of them. I neglected to bring a trail guidebook either. My friend, Reed, and I wanted to find an inetresting trail somewhere in the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness, which is north of Steamboat Springs. She hadn’t brought a map or book either. We picked up some basic US Forest Service trail info sheets to help us decide where to go. She read trail descriptions as I drove, and we both thought that the Three Island Lake Trail sounded really good.

We made a pit stop at the Clark Store, a small general store/post office/video rental center/bakery about 20 miles up Routt County Road 129. There I bought a Steamboat-Mt. Zirkel map put out by Sky Terrain Trail Maps. Like other maps in the series, it is printed on sturdy, waterproof and rip-proof material. It includes 16 US Geographical Survey quadrangles, which is a huge area roughly from near the Wyoming border on the north to Rabbit Ears Pass on the south and east and Sleeping Giant/Steamboat Lake State Park to the west.

These detailed, shaded topographic maps are 1:50,000 scale with 80-foot contour lines. They clearly show hiking trails, singletrack mountain biking trails, ATV routes, winter trails for motorized and non-motorized use, campgrounds, campsites, fishing access and wildlife management areas. Mileage and elevation information is clearly shown, and the maps are feature UTM grids for easy use with GPS units, which I don’t use by my husband does.

Sky Terrain maps also feature brief descriptions of selected trails and their highlights. The map and also the USFS information sheet describe the Three Island Lake Trail as “popular”and imply that it tends to get crowded. When we reached the parking pullout off FS 433, three vehicles were parked there. We got a late start, and as we were on our way up, we saw all three parties who were on their way down: four people and two dogs, two people and two dogs, and one person and one dog. That was it for the “crowd.”

The lovely lake at 9,878 feet is nestled in a high basin. We sat on a log, broke out cheese and crackers and fresh fruit and enjoyed the wunny, wind-still afternoon. For those of us hike in the Front Range, such wilderness solitude is rare — and virtually non-existent for a “popular” backcountry route.

Addition & Subtraction in Tourism Promotion

Israel Tourist Authority “claims” extra land that it has; Michigan “forgets” one-third of its state

The back page of New Mexico magazine is called “One of Our 50 is Missing,” filled with anecdotes and examples about people (some of them officials of some level of government) who think New Mexico is somehow part of Old Mexico rather than the United Sates. The license plate even includes USA to clarify in which country a vehicle is registered. That makesNew Mexico accurate and proactive in identifying itself.

Not so the state of Michigan and the State of Israel whose mistaken maps promoting tourism to their area had to be pulled or corrected.

The Associated Press reported on a kerfuffel caused after Michigan released a map without the Upper Peninsula, separated by two Great Lakes from the more populous lower section. AP noted that the “U.P., which is about the size of Denmark and bigger than nine U.S. states, only has 3% of the state’s population” was missing from a map released by Michigan itself. The correct map is shown to the upper right.

Some “Yoopers,” as U.P. residents call themselves, felt slighted last year when a state-sponsored tourism commercial only showed the more populous peninsula to the south. The TV ad was later fixed.” U.P. residents, who refer to themselves as Yoopers, have legislaion on their side requiring their forested, rural portion of the state to be included on all oficial maps.

The AP report continued, “Last year, some high school students from Escanaba wrote to a textbook publisher after a map in a history book appeared to exclude the U.P. from the borders of the United States. The map colored the U.P. white — like the void surrounding the country — while the rest of Michigan was shaded light blue. The map identified states by their postal codes; the U.P. was designated “IL,” for Illinois — which had no label. Other maps have shown the U.P. as part of Wisconsin or Canada.

Meanwhile, across he Atlantic, a poster promoting visitation to Israel was withdrawn by a UK truth-in-advertising watchdog called the Advertising Standards Authority after 442 people complained that a map on the poster (lower right) shows the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights as part of Israel. According to a report in The Guardian, the Tourism Ministry responded that the map was “a general schematic tourism and travel map, rather than a political map.”

Two Wheeling Through California

Bicycle road racing is a vicarious two-wheel journey.

For three weeks every summer, my husband and I take a bicycle tour of France. Thanks to the magic of television, we cruise past fields, vineyards, castles, villages and cities. We struggle up impossibly steep mountain roads in the Alps and the Pyrenees and race down the other sides. We mingle with an international cadre of riders. In the world of sports, it’s the Tour de France. In our world, it’s a road vicarious road trip through France. This year, we’ll be in France from July 5 though July 27, again, thanks to the magic of television.

Like the racers themselves, we’ve started training for the Tour de France by watching the just-concluded Amgen Tour of California. We covered 650 miles in eight days — through vineyards and redwoods along the stunning California coast We encountered sun, rain and wind. We rooted for the young Boulder rider, Tom Zirbel, who led the stage alone for miles until the last lap — and who blogs as well as rides very fast. Hats off to him, to race winner Levi Leipheimer and winner of the final stage, George Hincapie. And thanks, guys, for letting us ride along.

Map Misdirections

In the current USA Weekend ‘s “ThinkSmart” section, Everett Potter wrote about on-line maps in a short piece titled “The Best Maps on the Web.” I’ve been ruminating about on-line mapping sites these last couple of days, because one of the big ones steered us wrong — signficantly — on Friday night.

We were driving from our Boulder home to Texas de Brazil, a restaurant whose alleged address is 8390 East 49th Street in Northfield Stapleton, a new shopping and dining development on part of the site of Denver’s old Stapleton Airport. We know how to get to Northfield but weren’t sure exactly where the restaurant was. The directions we got were mind-boggling in their inaccuracy. Spurred by Potter’s listing of “the best,” I went on-line and searched for directions to the restaurant on half a dozen on-line map services. Here’s what I found:

  • Citysearch, the one we originally used, is really screwed up. The written directions had us leaving Boulder via 28th Street. So far, so accurate, but after that, the directions really fall apart. The directions say to drive on some unnamed route for 26.4 miles and continue, “Freeway ends; bear right taking the ramp towards Exit 4, Quebec Street.” Twenty-eighth Street, a local Boulder arterial, feeds into limited-access US 36, which eventually presents a choice of continuing on I-25 or I-270. Neither is mentioned by CitySearch. FWIW, I-270 is the one leading to our destination. The larger corresponding map labels the US 36/I-270 combination as Highway 128 (huh?) and the supposedly more localized map doesn’t include I-270 at all. Missing a long-extant portion of the Interstate highway system seems inexcusable. And besides, the freeway doesn’t end. Exiting from I-270, Citysearch says to turn left (south) on Quebec Street, while our destination required us to turn right (north) and then take an immediate right onto East 49th. The written directions led to a residential neighborhood on East 29th Avenue, 20 blocks and on the other side of Interstate 70 from where we were going.
  • Mapquest, Micrsoft’s Live Local Search and Google Maps are better in that they would have gotten us into the correct area, but they left us in the middle of East 49th Avenue with no indication of where to turn to enter the Northfield Center in order to reach the restaurant.
  • Yahoo Maps is also wrong. The directions are OK as far as the East 49th Avenue exit from I-270, but then indicate that after 0.6 mile, “make a U-turn at Verbena Street.” Anyone who did that would then be going the wrong way on East 49th Avenue. Instead of that U-turn, it is necessary to turn right from East 49th Street.
  • I also looked at a business directory called AskCity, which does include a map when it finds the business you are searching for. I asked, but the site had no answer other than, “Your search for Texas de Brazil did not match with any Business Listing results near Denver, CO.”
  • In all fairness to these nationwide maps, Northfield Stapleton’s own map isn’t all that enlightening when it comes to finding a specific business there. First, it’s necessary to go the business directory on the center’s website to discover that Texas de Brazil is #1800 and then go to the map. By doing that, you can figure out that you turn right from East 49th Avenue Parkway, as those devilishly clever marketers have renamed the street, onto….what? No street name is indicated (could it be Verbena?) between T.G.I. Fridays and Macy’s, then go 2/3 of the way around a traffic circle within sight of Texas de Brazil and then turn right behind the restaurant into a parking lot.

These on-line maps might be useful if you are looking for an address that has been around for a long time, but IMHO, they all suck to a greater or lesser degree when it comes to helping drivers navigate the rocky shoals of the new residential and commercial developments that are infesting the landscape — and these character-free developments would seem to be where people need the most help. It doesn’t help that all the business in a single shopping center often share one mailing address, and the on-line services can’t know that. Bottom line, when you’re traveling, don’t assume that on-line maps will get you exactly where you want to go, especially if it’s someplace that hasn’t been around since the administration of Harry Truman.