Letter Re: Maps, Legends, and Ground Truth

Hello James, 
Our contribution to being prepared was a Sunday drive. Here is what we did:
An essential piece of equipment for anyone contemplating any kind of emergency relocation are good maps.
If your relocation is a “bug out” due to deterioration of local conditions you need to have a plan.
In consideration that my current well placed rural residence might be a point of contention for those who want to ‘borrow my belongings and harbor unnatural urges about the occupants I have taken to making exploratory trips about my county.
Even though we are sheltering in place an alternative potential must be considered and planned.
My place: Oklahoma west.
That’s the only description I will give of my location.
I rely on a copy of the Oklahoma Atlas & Gazetteer. (A DeLorme detailed Topographic Map in large book form).
The scale of this map is one inch to 3.2 miles or approximately 1/3 inch to 1 mile.
It is not large enough to show any details other than gross features.
But the main usage of this map is to have an index of roads that could be used to provide a retreat or controlled movement to a place of safety.
Most of the roads are identified at corners with a street/road sign like you see in towns.
A second major source is a product of Shearer Publishing, 406 Post Oak Road, Frederickburg, Texas 78624 (1-800-458-3808).
It is titled: The Roads of Oklahoma (from “The Roads of…” series) and was printed in 1997.
Note: These map books are no longer available at your local Wal-Mart store. They are gone gone gone. But can be purchased on line from the publishers or through Amazon.com. They just contain too much information that could be used by people who want to cause damage to the citizens of USofA.
The DeLorme maps have only seven symbols listed for identifying roads. The Roads of Oklahoma has eleven symbols.
On May 6th my wife and I set out in our 1986 Ford F-150 pickup with 450,000+ miles on it to explore an area of remote rangeland along a very large major river. This river valley is perhaps 2 to 3 miles wide on the flats.
It’s total width from divide to divide is on the scale of 20 to 30 miles.
The unoccupied areas of hills, draws, canyons are in some locations covered in dense trees, mesquite, plum bushes, sagebrush and the phreatic Tamarack tree (water waster).
Wildlife and feral hogs abound.
We drove some 110 miles on this trip with a stop for lunch in about 4.5 hours.
Using the DeLorme map we located the closet town and state highway.
Then continued into the river valley on county roads often crossing ranches under open range conditions.
Finally the differentiation between road, oil field service road and ranch access road became muddled.
The map was not sufficiently detailed and google map indicated it was wrong in several cases.
Misidentifying ranch trails for roads.
I did not have a GPS in my vehicle so cannot comment on the potential for GPS systems that potentially could have helped us identify the correct road.
We continued on towards the river looking for the cross over road that would loop back the way we came but several miles on east.
Somewhere along the line we missed our crossover road.
Now up to a point we were able to absolutely tell our location using the road signs in the corner of the sections.
But we soon moved past them into an area of miles and miles of unmarked roads.
Many of which were not show on the DeLorme map.
Our local sheriff is a friend who we exchange confidences with to a point.
Several years ago I mention that our county was really isolated by this river on our one side because only one bridge crossed it.
The river is sandy and you just do not cross it in even a four wheel drive vehicle.
ATVs at some point, yes.
When it is dry it looks easy but will sink you to the frame of your vehicle in a twinkle of the eye.
But he mentioned to me that there was ‘another’ bridge ‘up their’ that the oil companies had installed so their pumpers could get pickups across to service wells.
He said, it is kinda a secret and not well know out side of a small area.
Otherwise they would have to make a detour of some 40+ miles just to get 1/2 mile to the other side of the river.
Well, lost and still on a good solid road suddenly we broke out of the Tamarack trees and here was that bridge he had described.
We drove across and eventually came out on a US highway, 43 miles north of where we started and on the other side of the river.
I failed to take with me “The Roads Of Oklahoma” book of maps. Of course I consulted it when I got home.
The scale is 1 inch = 2.5 miles.
A much larger scale that includes a more detailed legend of kinds of roads.
It also contains topographic lines that give an appreciation of the lay of the surface.
The Roads Of Oklahoma does show the road that leads to the bridge.
But the bridge is not marked on that map nor the DeLorme map.
It does show the blacktop road changing to a gravel graded and drained road to an unimproved road.
This information was not on the DeLorme map nor on Google.
At home I brought up the Google Map URL.
Looking at the Google map I could see exactly what we did to get to the locations we visited.
But Google did show the road leading to the unidentified bridge although the bridge was not show on the map.
The kinds and conditions of the roads were not indicated on the Google map either.
But we had a successful trip. I believe in knowing your area for miles and miles in all directions. Only driving roads will provide you ground truth.
This is what the Recon Scouts in the military provide. They collect information for the decision makers.
In the future I and others may not have the time to collect detailed information. That can only be gathered now.
My three mistakes:
1. Not taking with me and utilizing the additional source of information in The Maps Of Oklahoma.
2. Not comparing the DeLorme map, The Maps Of Oklahoma and my Google maps before I left.
3. Assuming that the maps were absolutely correct….they were not…but the lack of details is in the scale and misjudging oilfield access roads for public roads by the publishers.
We had a cell phone with us. We experienced no mechanical breakdowns. And we treated this excursion like a trip to the parking lot of a big box store. We should have played “what if” this was real.
Recommendation: Gather as many sources of maps as you can about your area.
I did have a plain paper copy of our whole county which shows where roads are closed.
But this information is also on the other two maps.
I also have a plat book of the county that shows ownership of the land detailed section by section.
An additional source of information are Soil Conservation Service (now dubbed the Natural Resource Conservation Service) soil surveys.
They are usually only published once but are based on actual aerial photographs.
Copies of them can get real scarce quickly.
Especially if they were published back in the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s.
Usually they are free to local land owners upon request.
As previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog, the USGS is having a $1 sale for selected topographic map quadrangle sheets.I have a few for my area.
But plan tomorrow to purchase a complete set for my surrounding area if they are still available.
The mile square sections and the 6 mile a 6 mile square Townships are a maze or roads that are without parallel in the world.
The central part of America is gridded off in this huge maze of roads.
It is a maze that is virtually uncontrollable.
It is your friend if you know how to access it and use it.
But it requires extensive ground truth of road trips correlated with all the map information you have.
While driving note where there are abandoned house sites with storm cellars. There are many here.
Mark where the large watershed structures are ( good for fishing, duck hunting, camping and riding out a civil storm for short period of time).
Note where there are working windmills as a source of water.
And there are hundreds in this area.
Old abandoned houses, barns and sheds could be temporary shelter in a time of great need.
Visit all of the public campgrounds near lakes and wildlife refuges that are near.
They may be a refuge for you for a critical period of several days.
But get to know your territory. Do not be afraid to get territorial if you need to protect your family.
Planning, intellect and sound thinking can and will defeat those with a B.A. degree in barroom babbling. B.A = bad **s.
You must be smarter than you adversary and better informed. – J.W.C. in Oklahoma