I remember my dad carrying a cardboard tube into our dining room when I was just a kid. He unrolled a big black and white picture and placed a fruit bowl, the salt and pepper shakers, and a book on the four corners and told me to have a look.
To a kid of ten years, it didn’t appear to be much at first glance, but then my dad told me it was a picture taken from an airplane 30,000 feet above our house. I looked closer and sure enough, you could make out the tiny outlines of the neatly plowed tobacco patch, the hayfield and the pasture. Closer inspection revealed various square and rectangular boxes that represented the image of our house, barn, shed, and various other outbuildings from high in the heavens. On the extreme upper edge of the picture was a black jagged "L" shaped figure. When I inquired about that black spot, I was told it was Keokee Lake, a place we often enjoyed fishing.
Despite the crude 1978 technology, I was intrigued and was forever mesmerized by the thoughts of high altitude photography. Therefore, imagine my exuberance over the advancements in technology. Google Earth was the stuff of science fiction when we stared at that USGS aerial shot back in 1978. However, satellite photos are now common, available and affordable. The high resolution photos with incredible detail are often fun to peruse, but they also serve a useful purpose to outdoorsmen.
Outer space photos can show ridge lines, rough back country, the flow of a meandering stream and a thousand other details of the errain that can save multiple hours of scouting and shoe leather.
A Montana-based company has now taken that technology to the next level for hunters. MyTopo offers customized topographical maps, which can be overlaid with lat/long grids or the UTM grids to make the map compatible with GPS. Company spokesman Paige Darden says they were a GIS company that found a niche in the outdoors market.
"People were coming in saying, ‘the place I want to hunt is in the corner of a quad and I’m going to have to buy four quads to cover the area I want to hunt in, can you make me a map?’ We put up a system that allows you to make the map centered anyplace. We’ve digitized the entire data base of 56,000 USGS quads and it’s irrelevant now," Darden says.
The MyTopo service offers hunters the opportunity to zoom in, zoom out and center the area they need to study. The entire map can be custom made on the Website. You can select your size and the map can also be laminated to allow marking and erasing with a grease marker.
For more information go to www.mytopo.com