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Old 03-28-2005, 11:38 AM   #1
adkdremn
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Question Map Reading

I'm looking at getting into backpacking this summer as maybe you could tell from previous posts. I've appreciated all the responses I've got, very helpful and informative to better prepare me for my adventures. I have another question that's pretty basic. I'm almost embarassed to ask and hopefully I won't be kicked off the forum for asking.
What's the best way to figure out mileage from point to point? I have the ADK guide books and the topo maps that come with them. I know there is a scale at the bottom of the map, but it's straight, and there aren't to many straight trails in the mountains.
Well, as your all sitting there laughing, all I can say is you gotta start somewhere, I guess. Please know that I'm not some idiot who's never done any hiking before. I've done plenty of dayhikes in the ADK's, the AT in PA and lots of other places. This is my first foray into backpacking and I know you guys have the knowledge to help get me started.
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Old 03-28-2005, 12:21 PM   #2
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Not a bad question at all. First, whatever technique you use will only give you an approximation as even the trail shown on the maps don't account for all the twists and turns of a real trail. One technique is to use a string which you can bend and curve along a trail on the map. You can then straighten the string into a straight line and measure it using the map legend.
A basic map and compass book would be a good place to start learning this and other useful strategies for navigating. There are many out there.
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Old 03-28-2005, 12:25 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adkdremn
What's the best way to figure out mileage from point to point? I have the ADK guide books and the topo maps that come with them. I know there is a scale at the bottom of the map, but it's straight, and there aren't to many straight trails in the mountains.
It's not a dumb question. You can get the distances on all the marked trails from the guide book. They are measured with a surveyor's wheel to the nearest 0.1 or 0.01 miles. If you are bushwhacking or otherwise not using marked trails, you can get a sense of distances by comparing trails in the book to a route you want to take and make an estimate. If you're off by a half mile or so, it won't make much of a difference.
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Old 03-28-2005, 12:42 PM   #4
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Before I would try and lay a string on maps and the measure it layed out straight.

Now I use National Geographic TOPO! software.
I have the Northeastern USA and Pennsylvania CD-ROMs.
I can trace anywhere I want to go and it calculates the distance.
I'm hooked on using computer mapping software.

Good Luck,
John
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Old 03-28-2005, 01:14 PM   #5
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The NG Topo software is the best. It's what I use.

However, the old string trick works just fine as well, especially on the trail. I always carry a piece of string, marked off in 1/2" increments, a small plastic protracter and plastic 6" ruler in my mapcase.

Don't make the mistake of purchasing one of those "measuring pencils" that has a little wheel. there is about a 5% error with the best of them.
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Old 03-29-2005, 05:26 AM   #6
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I used to just guestimate or look in a guide book. If i didn't have that particular guidebook and wanted more accuracy I would use the string method. Now that I have the NG topo software I will probably be using that.

If you wanted to get fancy you could try the Silva map Measure . 5% error is only 1/2 mile off for every 10 miles. That isn't too bad...probably just as good as you would get with the string.
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Old 03-29-2005, 08:42 AM   #7
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Better than trying to figure out the distance is to go by "book time" which takes into consideration other factors besides horizontal distance. Book time is how long the book says it takes to hike the trail. After a hike or two you'll have a good idea how your time compares to book time.
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Old 03-29-2005, 10:12 AM   #8
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Really harder than trying to figure out the approximate distance on the map is... figuring out how far you've gone / where you are. That's where the guidebook comes in handy, you can use mentioned landmarks (like "past the stand of hemlock" or "after taking a left at the rock pile"), signposts, etc that are mentioned in the guidebook to get a better idea of where you are without having to count paces or triangulate your position. On a trail, it's really easy regardless, given your bearing and a quick look at the map you can really pin point your position anyways...

It makes a lot more difference when you stray from the trail & guides. I learned to use a compass & topographic map by participating in some orienteering in the day... The thing that I think is cool about learning it that way is... Orienteering is hella fun, I think from doing that I'm a lot more comfortable getting myself lost & unlost, and from what I read... keeping a cool head is half the battle when you're lost. I actually tried to seek a few geocaches by orienteering before I ever bought a GPSr... that's when I learned about different datums (took a couple no finds, hahaha).

Speaking of learning to navigate... A guy I worked with a few years ago and I were talking about navigation one time, he was in the military in eastern europe and you know how they taught him how to navigate.... They blind folded him, drove him for 4 hours, threw him out of a truck without anything in the middle of nowhere and said "lets see you get back"! Now I'm reminded why we're so lucky to be using a forum and conversation to learn about navigating

Also.... One freebie software you can pick up to take a peek at some maps before you go and buy the quads is USAPhotomaps (downloads the maps from the internet [specifically terraserver], so if you have dialup it might be painful to use), you can download it at: http://www.jdmcox.com/. Also you can draw a route on the map to measure distances with it.
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Old 03-29-2005, 10:33 AM   #9
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There is also a map put out by National Geographic that has all the trail lengths, in miles. This map is really useful if you are just sticking to the trails.

One thing noone mentioned is that if you are going to have significant elevation gain, there will be increased mileage (hypoteneuse of a triangle longer than any one side) . So if you are gaining a 2 miles of height over 10 miles the actual mileage is sqrt(10*10+2*2) = 10.2 This increases significantly the more height you have.

The other thing you have to consider is the condition of the trail. 10 miles on an old railroad bed goes a lot faster than 4 miles of up and down on say, devil's path.

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Old 03-29-2005, 01:20 PM   #10
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I would recomend reading "Be expert with Map and Compass: The complete orienteering Handbook" by bjorn kjellstrom (yeah, that is the way to spell it). Don't be embarrased, I had hiked for years, read this book, and then by reading this book actually learned how read a map. ooops.

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Old 03-29-2005, 01:38 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by percious
There is also a map put out by National Geographic that has all the trail lengths, in miles. This map is really useful if you are just sticking to the trails.
This was going to be my suggestion. They sell them just about everywhere hiking stuff is sold, including the adirondack lodge.

http://maps.nationalgeographic.com/trails/


A few things to note - even with the Topo software, it's tough to trace the existing trail lines or draw freehand the trails for an exact measurement. It's usually on the shorter side (like 10% shorter distance). There's an option to build the profile, and for mountain climbing this is more important because it takes into account the elevation gain as Chris just explained and gives you a more realistic idea of the hike's difficulty.

I only use the ADK guide and official trail marker estimates as a frame of reference. They are by no means 100% accurate. It was told to me by several folks that when many of the high peaks trails were surveyed the person taking the measurements didn't use the results properly. I believe Tom McG knows something about the plotting of the high peaks trails. The results could have been exact but instead they end up being consistently "off". The loj to Marcy Dam, for example, is actually a longer hike than indicated on the trail signs, etc. It's not a huge discrepency (which is why they haven't bothered correcting them), but worth noting.
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Old 03-29-2005, 01:54 PM   #12
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Another good resource is Wilderness Navigation by Bob and Mike Burns. It is small and light, so it is not a pain to take into the field to practice with.
-Kev
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Old 03-29-2005, 02:00 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by percious
One thing noone mentioned is that if you are going to have significant elevation gain, there will be increased mileage (hypoteneuse of a triangle longer than any one side) . So if you are gaining a 2 miles of height over 10 miles the actual mileage is sqrt(10*10+2*2) = 10.2 This increases significantly the more height you have.
Who hikes to do math? Last semester (hopefully) is the last that I have to think about math, yuck.
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Old 03-29-2005, 03:43 PM   #14
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I never bother with “miles”, in the wood they mean next to nothing. Elevation is the big equalizer; other factors are trail conditions, scenery, and weather. I once hiked to the Whiteface Lean-to, along the Connery Pond Trail, in 50 minutes, I believe the distance is just under 4-miles. Another time I hiked ¾ of a mile up through Panther Gorge and it took me 4-1/2 hours.

The “Rule of Thumb” for hiking on trails is 2-miles and hour and 1 hours for each 1,000 feet of elevation gain. That will give you a start on figuring out how long a hike will take you.

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