New map and expanded trails in Emmitsburg

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

Independent Maps is proud to release the latest map of the Multi User trails in Emmitsburg Maryland.  I spent a summer in the dirt with Trails Conservancy building on the north side of Hampton Valley Road.  It was nice to see them worn in with good use.  Parking is limited at Rainbow Lake but you can ride in from town. Then it is downhill all they way back to the restaurants.

Trail information from the town website

The map links to printable pdf that can be GPS navigated on your phone with the Avenza PDF Map App.

20160423 EmmitsburgTrails

Emmitsburg Trail Map

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

I’m glad the MORE board of directors enjoyed their ride on the Emmitsburg Trail.  I spent most of my summer out their as a subcontractor for Austin and Trails Conservancy.  A lot of sweat went in to that singletrack.



Map links to a printable pdf version.

Updated 11/14/2013 to fix an attribute error on a logging road.

Multiple Sources, Multiple Policies

Monday, October 14th, 2013

The license agreement on government data sets varies widely.  In the best case they are public domain. In the worst case they are not released.  Sometimes the use is heavily restricted.  The good news is that there is rarely a sole source of data for a given project.

This project is a park in Annapolis. The town will provide data but the license agreement is onerous.  A map cannot be created and distributed to persons outside the project. But Annapolis lies within Anne Arundel County.  The county data sets are public domain so I can use them as I see fit.  Other options are open source, state and federal government, and civic organizations.

The moral is don’t stop at one source. You might find better terms or better data in other holdings.  It’s a great way to quality check too.  One hours research led me to all of this for free.



Friday, June 7th, 2013

I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty. Working as a sub for Trails Conservancy I helped turn a trail plan in to a tangible asset for the community.  There are eight miles of easy climbs, flowing downhills, and technical features for all to enjoy in the Emmitsburg watershed.  The plan calls for more trail south of Hampton Valley Road and a connection back to town.

My Cubicle




Annapolis Rocks

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Low miles and moderate elevation make this a popular weekend getaway for the Baltimore and DC crowd.  The rock outcrops offer a nice view and technical routes from 5.4 to 5.10+.  Camping is no longer permitted at the cliff top but several sites are available further back.  The trail, camp, and composting toilet are maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.


Overnights in the Everglades

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

I’ve never been to the Everglades, but I have been on the water and I’ve been to a great many national parks.  I see a few variables that could throw my trip.  Windy days and the waves they create could keep me away from the coastal waters.  Interior rivers and creeks could be too low to traverse.  Lastly, I might not be able to get a permit for the camp sites I want.

So what’s a cartographer to do?  Plan several itineraries and make maps of course.  This map series uses NOAA Raster Charts as a base.  I overlayed the planned route, camp sites, and a 1k UTM grid for easier navigation.  Finally I exported the map as a PFD.  If you have the Terrago plugin for Acrobat, it will display the coordinates of your mouse in Lat/Lon and MGRS.

The routes and text for these two trips are courtesy of  I just placed them on the map.
ChokoloskeeTurnerLopez EverGlade-PicnicKey
Between the storms, alligators, and mosquitoes I figure I have an 80% chance of surviving this trip.

Building a System

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013


My first map as an independent took a while.  That is because I’m not just the cartographer.  I’m the IT guy and the researcher.

From an IT perspective GIS is hard.  The software options are complicated and expensive.  Visualization places heavy demands on the video card.  Large data sets require sufficient space and organization.  Terrain processing can run for hours.  For the home GIS solution it has to be cheap too.

One software package sets the stage for everything.  ArcGIS.  As a pro you need it and it only runs on Windows.  I solved that with a gaming quality laptop.  The video, memory, and hard drive are nearly as good as a workstation laptop and it’s a lot cheaper.  Since I can’t afford a full ESRI license I run Quantum GIS for some processing tasks.  I manage my files on a recycled Linux laptop.  This low budget filer server supports every machine in the house and has it’s own battery backup.  The performance isn’t bad either.

For under $3,000 I’ve got a complete system that’s backed up, mobile, and ready to work.  Most of my compromises are on software.  The open source offerings aren’t as smooth as the commercial products but they are getting the job done.  Let’s make some maps.


Flag Pole Knob Overlay

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

I haven’t jeeped or mapped this trail yet. From descriptions on the internet, it looks like FS225 off Union Springs Road south of Rawley Virginia. Wrangler Forum members tell me this is passable in a stock Jeep Wrangler. Expect some mud puddles and an obstacle known as the staircase.

The KMZ file is a Google Earth Overlay of the 2012 MVUM. The MVUM is the authoritative source for motor vehicle access to the George Washington National Forest.

2012MVUM Flagpole Knob