Out with the Old…

Below is a comparison of the last UOG map vs the 2015 UOG map. Quite a difference in the quality, especially in the printed versions. Back in 2008, available map data was very limited, hard to come by, and/or difficult to work with for untrained map geeks like me. The best I could do at the time was to download scanned 24k topo raster images from USGS/USFS, and splice the individual files together to form a single image that encompassed the entire area I needed. I could then use this new ,seamless, image as a background in OCAD and overlay trails, text, and other information to create a usable map for UOG. The issue that bothered me most with this method was that USGS/USFS maps weren’t updated regularly, so it was (and still is) quite common to find very outdated information on USFS/USGS topo maps…especially with respect to trails. I likely spent as many hours hiking EVERY trail in the event area as I did “erasing” outdated information (pixel by pixel) on the background image created from the USFS/USGS scanned maps.

How the times have changed! Today, nearly all the vector data that USFS/USGS use to create their 24K topos is available for download (contour lines/labels, annotation, trails, roads, structures, water features, boundaries, graveyards, footbridges, etc.) With the data in this format, it is infinitely customizable! The 2015 map image below was created entirely from vector data that was formatted to mimic USFS 24K topos. Want purple contours lines? No problem! That trail doesn’t exist anymore as shown? Hide/delete it with a couple clicks…then upload your own field data to show the actual trail location.

Of course, its not as easy (initially) to create these maps as it sounds. For me, there was a big learning curve I had to overcome using GIS software before I managed to finally get the hang of it. I still like OCAD, but found QGIS as a better (free) alternative that is more flexible and better suited for my map making needs.