Springtime in Montana means sloppy trail runs, fast melting snow from the yards and finally bursts of greenery with trees, grasses and brush letting us know a full-blown season change is upon us. For me, it also means fishing while I can before the rivers are blown out, and tweaking gear in preparation for spring turkey and bear season.
With the usual work of shooting the bow with more regularity, cleaning out the backpack of the fall season’s detritus, one thing I love to do is unfold a few topo maps, and see where I have been, and where I want to go. Maps for me have always been a fascinating thing, and I love being able to pinpoint where I may have put down a camp, or taken a deer, perhaps found an active wallow or bear den. The ability to trace your finger along a contour line, or a ridge of a high mountain pass in a two dimensional way and then conjure up the memories of actually being there is always a small wonder to me. Tucked up on a shelf in the garage, I have a large box of maps, ranging from old worn BLM maps from the 1970’s to hand-drawn maps on plain sheets of paper, one of Mt. Everest, the Columbia Icefields in Canada where two friends and I climbed as well as quadrant maps of local ranges with tick marks, X’s and red circles, all code for camp spots, trails, wallows and drinkable water sources from hunts gone by. I add to them, I update them, I buy a map here and there of areas I may never set foot on, but like knowing if I do, I will find my way.
My smartphone has countless maps and even an overlay of Google Earth should I need it, and my GPS is loaded up with enough data to get me from one end of the state to the other, but no matter what gizmo I have, and I have a few that work really well, I always have a map tucked into my pack of the area I will be, just in case, because it never fails to show me where I am or want to go.