April 28, 2008

Walking on Africa

The Sheboygan Press reports on a geography teacher traveling Wisconsin with National Geographic's giant map of Africa, sponsored by the Wisconsin Geographic Alliance.

Learn more about National Geographic's Geography Alliance network here.

April 25, 2008

TOPO! Explorer Public Beta is Live :: What to Expect and What's Next

Last night at midnight - the switch was thrown and National Geographic's national recreation database was born. As of 10:00am this morning we've loaded over 37,000 miles of trail and witnessed dozens sign up for their free accounts. To get everyone up-to-speed on what you can do today and what to expect over the next month we've created this brief article.

Welcome to TOPO! Explorer :: What to Expect

Until May 30th, we are in beta. Which means that not all planned functionality is live, yet.. However, by logging in today you can:

* Register for your free user account, and create your member profile.
* Explore our nationwide map images including our new Hybrid layer.
* Browse Trip Files, plus post reviews, comments, and trip reports.
* Visit the forums and connect with other outdoor enthusiasts.
* Apply to become a beta tester and help us refine future features

What's Next?

Over the next month we will be releasing new features almost daily, posting tons of content, building out how-tos, and come May 30th providing you an entirely new way to get maps.

Our goal is to build ::the:: portal for outdoor enthusiasts to find, share, and discuss where to go. We hope that by making it easy find recreation opportunities that it encourages more people to get outdoors.

We're doing things a bit different with TOPO! Explorer. First of all, we're making it free. You don't need a subscription to browse the maps or find recreational information nor do you need to buy a software application to later post your own files, connect to a GPS, or create mashups. Instead we've enabled all functions to take place either freely on the website itself, or through the forthcoming TOPO! Explorer application which will be available for free download on June 2nd.

So how does National Geographic generate revenue? ... We sell maps and by the end of May, users will have several options to purchase maps based upon their needs:

1. Purchase TOPO! State Series Products. If you are an avid outdoor enthusiast that recreates throughout your State, there is no better value than picking up a complete State of detailed topographic maps. In most cases you will get 1000's of real USGS quads for approximately $100. Used in conjunction with the new free TOPO! Explorer website and application you have access to updated trails, roads, recreational points of interest - plus you can print, export to GPS, and share your own creations.

2. Purchase Weekend Explorer Products. If you mainly recreate around your local metro area, Weekend Explorer is the right package for you. It contains hundreds of USGS quads for approximately $30. Just like State Series, when used in conjunction with the TOPO! Explorer application you get access to the detailed topos, plus all the rich recreation content from the web community.

3. Purchase TOPO! Explorer or Explorer Deluxe Retail Packs. Coming May 30th to retail stores, is TOPO! Explorer and Explorer Deluxe. Unlike any other map product - these two boxes give you the flexibility to pick-and-choose the exact maps ala cart. Both kits contain (25) map download credits, which can be used on the TOPO! Explorer website to get the specific topographic maps and aerial imagery you need. This is ideal for someone who recreates occasionally, or recreates throughout the country and needs flexibility. It's also appealing to existing TOPO! State Series and Weekend Explorer users that want to add a few maps outside of their current map sets. TOPO! Explorer sells for $24.95 and the Deluxe Edition (which contains intermediate detail USGS 1:100,000 scale maps for entire United States + 25 map credits) sells for $49.95.

For those that feel lucky, be sure to purchase TOPO! Explorer or Explorer Deluxe from your favorite retailer during the month of June, as one out of ten retail kits sold will activate double the map credits!

So don't hesitate - visit beta.topo.com today and sign up for your free account. Roll up those sleeves and help make this outdoor community great. Check back to Contours next Wednesday for an update on new TOPO! Explorer features and useful tips!

April 23, 2008

TOPO Explorer Goes Live Friday :: Part One

In just a few short hours National Geographic's new TOPO! Explorer website will go live for public beta.

Over a year in the making, TOPO! Explorer is the platform for NatGeo's national recreation database - a first of its kind portal that provides outdoor enthusiasts with detailed maps, satellite imagery, up-to-date trails, and recreation information - plus it enables users to post reviews, trip reports, and their own custom maps.

"There's nothing on the web like TOPO! Explorer," stated Paul Glauthier, CTO for National Geographic Maps. "There are sites that provide maps, those that have trail descriptions, and a few that enable community interaction but TOPO! Explorer is the first site designed for and by outdoor enthusiasts that offers all of the above, and better yet freely browsable."

Between Friday and May 30th National Geographic will be adding more features and content to the site, plus getting ready for the launch of the new companion desktop application that will enable users to share their own photos, videos, and trips. At launch users can create their free accounts, build out their profiles, browse maps, post to the forums, and begin providing trip reports to fellow explorers.

Check Back Tomorrow Morning for Part Two: TOPO! Explorer FAQs and Tips and Tricks to Getting Started.

April 18, 2008

Trails Illustrated Adds Coverage in California | Interview with Shane Matthews, TI Product Manager

Just over a week ago National Geographic Maps began shipping Trails Illustrated map #809, Mammoth Lakes/ Mono Divide. This exciting new map is the first of 5 new titles for California's Sierra Nevada. To learn more about the series Contours sat down with Shane Matthews, Product Manager for Trails Illustrated & Adventure Maps.

Contours:: TI 809, is the first of five new TI maps for California. Can you tell us a bit more about this project?

Shane Matthews:: The newly published Mammoth Lakes / Mono Divide (TI809) title turned out beautifully! This was an interesting project in that it encompassed a wide range of public lands for recreation, to include National Park and Forest Lands, Wilderness Areas and a highly used Sierra Ski Area. This map includes popular areas of the Sierra and Inyo National Forest.

Contours:: Besides 809, what other new titles or revisions are in the works for California?

Shane Matthews:: Mammoth Lakes / Mono Divide (TI809) is just part of a much bigger picture. Two years ago we published three Tahoe National Forest maps to include the Lake Tahoe Basin Unit. So, the newly published TI809 and the upcoming Sierra map titles are added components of our extensive Sierra Nevada map coverage and there is going to be more!

Currently we are working on four new titles that will add to this map coverage. Crystal Basin (TI806) will highlight Eldorado National Forest and will include the Rubicon Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and other Scenic Trails, and loads of camping areas. Carson-Iceberg / Emigrant and Mokelumne Wilderness Areas (TI807) will take in portions of Stanislaus National Forest including generous overlap with TI806. This map will feature some of the best High Sierra back-country there is to offer, true wilderness! Merced and Tuolumne Rivers (TI808) will take in remaining portions of the Stanislaus National Forest and will feature two of most Wild and Scenic Rivers in the country. This map will also include a variety of recreational amenities that surround these rivers. Shaver Lake (TI810) will feature remaining portions of the Sierra National Forest. It will include recreational areas such Bass and Shaver Lakes. The Dinkey Lakes and Kaiser Wilderness areas will also be featured with a variety of trail systems for the back-country hiker. Another important note would be that some of these titles will share overlap with our Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Park maps, lending seamless coverage of adjacent lands for the map user.

Other interesting California projects would include some revisions and significant updates of existing Trails Illustrated maps. We have just recently finished an update to our Mojave National Park and Preserve map. We are doing a major overhaul of our Santa Monica National Recreation Area map and will be published very soon! This map will update should serve the recreationalists in the Los Angeles, Malibu and Santa Monica region extremely well.

In the next few months the Trails Illustrated California map titles will be in their best shape ever with all coverage either brand new or newly revised and updated! There may be even more next year.

Contours:: TI maps are completed in cooperation with local land managers – who did you work with on 809?

Shane Matthews:: Establishing a cooperative relationship with public land agencies is essential to a successful TI map. TI809 was no exception to this rule. We worked with The Sierra and Inyo National Forests and their knowledgeable staff. Everyone from Public Affairs, Land Ownership, GIS Mapping, Trails and Recreation Specialists, Interpretation and Wilderness Rangers were included and this is typical for any map we publish. In addition, we always work with regional Managing Associations to these forests and other public lands. In this case we worked with the Eastern Sierra and the Three Forests Interpretive Associations.

Contours:: Creating a new map from scratch must be a pretty extensive project. Can you describe what went into the creation of 809?

Shane Matthews:: Our production team treated this new map like any other, really. It starts with establishing that relationship with the key people as I just mentioned. Securing the most updated information these land agencies can provide is the next big step. Having these two things in place we are off and running. Typically, the map base is generated using USGS information then we add a variety of information obtained from land agencies and other trusted sources in the region.

Editorial and other essential information is also collected and included in all of our maps. We put TI809 through several in-house edits before it went to the land agencies for an on-site review before publishing. We found that working the district-level forest staff, the people who “walk the ground” was key with TI809, which can be said for any project.

Contours:: What do you think users of 809 will most appreciate about the map?

Shane Matthews:: The map user will appreciate a variety of things about TI809, but quite simply they will appreciate this map because it can be trusted. It is published at a very usable scale with extreme detail to landscapes. TI809 offers practical information that the user will need for trip planning and for use while exploring and recreating in the region.

Contours:: What popular places are contained on 809?

Shane Matthews:: TI809 contains portions of Sierra and Inyo National Forests, Ansel Adams and John Muir Wilderness Areas, Devils Post Pile National Monument, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, The Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway, The Pacific Crest Trail just to name a few.

Contours:: Finally, besides California what other projects is your team working on right now?

Shane Matthews:: We are busy with many Trails Illustrated revisions around the country. Mammoth Cave National Park, Pisgah Ranger District , Fontana and Hiwassee Lakes, Nantahala & Cullasaja Gorges, and many Colorado and Utah region maps are among the revisions on the exhaustive docket for the year. New titles will include two maps under the Adventure Map Series covering the California Baja of Mexico. These Baja maps will be the latest in the quickly expanding Adventure Map Series and will include the comprehensive travel information these maps are known for. Look for them this Fall!

Contours:: Thanks for your time Shane and keep up the great work!

April 13, 2008

Navigating in New England

Jeff Caulfield of NatGeoMaps brings his Navigating with Maps & GPS clinics to outdoor stores in New England. Clinics are at 7 p.m. Admission is free. Attendees will receive a disk with Map & GPS Skills and other useful information.

Monday, April 14 - REI West Hartford, CT
Tuesday, April 15 - REI Cranston, RI
Wednesday, April 16 - REI Boston, MA
Thursday, April 17 - REI Framingham, MA
Friday, April 18 - EMS Nashua, NH (club card day)

Jeff will show you, step-by-step, how to use a GPS with a map to plan your next day hike or backcountry adventure. He'll discuss the features of different GPS models, and give you tips on how to use these features in the navigation process.

April 8, 2008

April 3, 2008

Why buy street and road maps?

Sales of road and street maps and atlases have been shrinking for some years, at least in the U.S. Most in the industry attribute this first to MapQuest and other free online map sites, and more recently to the growth of in-car GPS systems (also called SatNav).

It occurs to me that in the outdoor recreation world, we always tell people to bring a map with them on the trail, even if they use a handheld GPS receiver, so why wouldn't the same logic apply to road navigation?

For GPS users: Printed maps provide an overview not possible on a small screen. And electronic devices can fail or lose reception.

For online users: What happens if your plans change or there's a detour? The map you printed online may not serve you well.