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Discussion: Maps

in: JustMe; JustMe > 2014-07-12

Jul 16, 2014 1:50 AM # 
It takes practice to learn to navigate on different types of maps. If your experience has been mostly on orienteering maps, then you've become accustomed to a high level of detail that most government maps don't have. Orienteering is still great since it teaches you all kinds of navigation skills that you can use on different types of maps that have less detail.

With any map, you need to start by deciding which information you can rely on. With topo maps, you need to check the year the map was made. In this case, the competitor instructions said the information was current as of 1988, i.e. the government last updated this topo map 26 years ago.

In areas like this, the trails are often linked to logging operations or else they go to hunting camps that may or may not still operate. So you know that after 26 years, new trails will exist and old trails may be overgrown. You also know that some bodies of water will have changed over time, e.g. due to beaver activity or wetlands growing in.

In Bob's races (but not in all Canadian races), there are typically some trails marked in bold that have been checked with GPS this year. It's impossible to mark all the trails in the wilderness but he tries to mark the ones that might make reasonable route choices so these should always grab your attention! The trail you were on before you turned off to go northeast to Owl Lake was one of these trails, which shows that Bob thought some teams might choose that route.

The Backroads Map Books provide additional info but the trail locations are approximate - not intended for map and compass navigation. By contrast, topo maps were usually fairly accurate at some point in time but that may have been quite awhile ago - and even they get the trails in the wrong place sometimes.

If you aren't able to see your route history, let me know and I can explain how to bring it up on the tracker map. Unfortunately, the trackers had a wonky day but it is possible to see that you hit the west side of Owl Lake, which was good since it would tell you exactly where you were (based on where you left the trail and looking at the shape of the lake). At that point, the best move would be to go around the lake to the south where the terrain was drier but you tried to skirt it to the north and ended up doing a Tour de Wetlands. No wonder it was frustrating!

Even though you went the hard way, you got to a point just 500 m west of Kibeong Lake so you were on the right track. Honestly, you were doing really well to that point. There were lots of teams doing a lot more wandering around than that. As we watched the tracker map at that moment, we weren't worrying about your team at all.

So be proud of what you accomplished! And find some topo maps closer to home and practise navigating on 1:50,000 maps so you're more comfortable next year.

Btw I can't see what you mean by both maps having an access road shown incorrectly...? The road you were on was the one that took you just south of Owl Lake. It's shown on both maps so I think that's what you mean but your GPS track also matches the maps.
Jul 16, 2014 2:30 PM # 
P.S. You might consider heading up to Collingwood next spring for one of Bob's navigation theory and field clinics. If you're going to be there anyway, you might enjoy the afternoon AR skills clinic as well. A number of our racers have practised topo map navigation that way.
Jul 16, 2014 3:01 PM # 
Bash, thanks so much for the advice! I'll admit that i'm totally spoiled with orienteering maps here in Michigan. They are extremely detailed and accurate (thanks to our awesome orienteering club SMOC). Even the older topo maps aren't too bad. I'll have to try and find some 1:50,000 scale maps of our area so I can get used to them and practice. Being "on the ground" and experiencing the terrain compared to the map was great experience that I'll be able expand on for future races. Also, now understanding how the Backroads maps intended use was as a general guide to supplement the topo. I was mistakenly using as more of a navigational tool than I should (and didn't use it when I should have).

It appeared to me after looking at the track after the race that the road/path actually ended either just west or actually north of Owl Lake, instead of as ending just south of Owl Lake as the maps showed. We originally thought we were coming off the north/south path, going east, and crossing a channel between Owl Lake (also thinking that Owl Lake was no longer a lake, but just a big swampy area) and the northern finger of Turtle Lake, when we were actually crossing a channel between Owl Lake and an extremely swampy area to the north. When we hit water/swamp again 10 minutes later while tracking east, we should have immediately realized where we were, instead of me continuing to insist we were further south. Of course all of this makes sense now, but on the ground I think we got really frustrated. In retrospect we/I should have stopped and taken a break for awhile and gathered our thoughts, instead of trying to make decisions so quickly (another lesson learned).

Competing in the race, talking with you and other racers after the race, and being able to analyze things afterwards has really helped me better understand what I need to do (and practice more of) for not only the WT 2015, but other future races. All this experience was invaluable :)
Jul 16, 2014 3:30 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
I need to talk to Igor to see if he'll teach me how to use the DEM and then maybe I can prepare us large scale maps with gigantic contour intervals (or something above 3m) to help with generalization.
Jul 16, 2014 4:00 PM # 
I think the U.S. uses 1:24,000 topo maps as a standard so you are also spoiled in that department! But there is a lot more of Canada to map and only 10% as many people to pay for it so we're generally stuck with 1:50,000. :) Our orienteering maps are awesome too though, so don't worry about coming to Ontario O events.

If you check your track on your route history in satellite mode, you'll see that Dumont Access Road on the satellite map matches both the topo and the Backroads map pretty well, i.e. it takes you southwest of Owl Lake. It doesn't actually end there but Bob stopped GPS-ing it since he didn't expect anyone to take it further than that. The Backroads map shows how it turns south and keeps going.

What I'm wondering is if you left Dumont Access Road without realizing it. I had assumed that you chose a point to leave Dumont Rd. and bushwhack into the west side of Owl Lake. However, the Backroads map shows a minor access trail leading to the southwest side of Owl Lake, and maybe you took that. The trail into Owl Lake may be better used than Dumont Rd. at that point and perhaps you took the left fork without even knowing it. In any case, once you left Dumont Rd., you weren't following the trail on the topo map anymore.

There is a second access trail shown a little farther along Dumont Rd. It was the one I expected you to take when I first noticed your tracker heading that way. It would have gone between Owl and Turtle, as you were expecting. So maybe you purposely turned off Dumont Rd. but you turned off at the first access road to Owl Lake rather than the second one?

Btw we've just learned this morning that DeLorme had a problem over the weekend and was sending wonky data to our tracker map. In a couple of weeks, we're hoping to get the data fixed so that your route history will be much more accurate. At the moment, you can still get the rough idea if you just ignore some of the lines joining the points since you obviously didn't visit all those points in that order!
Jul 16, 2014 4:18 PM # 
We were originally looking for that second access trail down Dumont Rd., but were unable to find it, so turned back and used "Plan B" near Owl Lake. My guess that even though we thought we went more than far enough (used "time trekked" with the prior section of access road to try and figure out when we should be near it)....... that we didn't go far enough. The trail was getting really overgrown at the point we stopped and turned around thinking that the trail no longer existed.
Jul 16, 2014 5:53 PM # 
Ah, OK, I think I'm understanding this now. Your log mentioned an access road shown on both maps so I assumed you meant Dumont Access Road, which gets within 200 meters of Owl Lake but doesn't go all the way. I think you were talking about the minor trail to Owl Lake from main trail, which is not shown on the topo map - only the Backroads Map.

So when you went back to do Plan B, the first access road to Owl Lake, it sounds like you knew exactly what you were doing. If so, everything was going well to that point. It appears that you would have first seen the shoreline of Owl Lake on its southwest side, just below the letter "O" on the satellite tracking map. Then you veered north to follow its shoreline? It's a little hard to tell the sequence of events now that the timestamps are messed up on the route history.

Oh man, you guys were *really* close! :)
Jul 16, 2014 6:30 PM # 
You have it exactly right. And yes, it appears that we were a lot closer than we thought! Again, I think that if we would have just sat down and rested a bit and took some additional time to gather our thoughts, instead feeling like due to the setting sun and pending rain, that we(I) needed to make an immediate decision on course of action. Coach ld was much more comfortable with where she thought we were, and she was correct. Lesson learned :)
Jul 16, 2014 6:48 PM # 
Oh, the injustice...great job though guys. Tough nav out there.
Jul 17, 2014 4:59 AM # 
In my very first 8-hour adventure race in 2002, we were close to the finish when the sun set, and I backtracked because I'd never navigated in the dark before and didn't have confidence in myself. Looking at it later, we were right on track and only had 500 m of bushwhacking left but instead we went back a few kms, then walked 5 km on the road to the finish line. So I totally get how this can happen! :)

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