Official Website of the North Carolina Bartram Trail Society

A Journey: The New Bartram Trail Map (Update)

May 10th, 2010 by NC BTS


In 2007 the NCBTS Board of Directors felt that it was time to replace the existing set of seven individual “Section” maps that covered the path of the North Carolina (NC) portion of the Bartram Trail (BT). So a Map Team was chartered to produce a BT map that would be a more “conventional” single sheet, two-sided map.

After the membership of the team was established, the first thing to be done was to determine the “characteristics” that we wanted to be included in the map. We internally developed a list of desired characteristics and canvassed other hiking organizations/map makers for their “lessons learned” in developing their map(s). In particular, we were interested in the manner in which the volunteer, non-profit organizations (such as ours) went about developing/creating their map(s).

We are deeply indebted to folks from the following organizations for freely sharing with us their experiences and advice on “how” to go about this task: The Foothills Trail, The Benton McKaye Trail, The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, The Mountain-to-Sea Trail and the Map Division of the National Geographic Society. Their help kept us from stepping into many “potholes” along the way.

As a result of the “mentoring” received from the organizations listed above, we decided not to attempt to completely develop the new map “internally” with an all-volunteer organization. Thus, we sought a grant that would allow us to hire a cartographer and an experienced commercial map printer.

We did decide, however, to re-affirm the path of the BT and the location of its main features (e.g., water sources, campsites, vistas, road accesses, etc) with an internal, all-volunteer effort. Thus we walked the NC BT with GPS equipment and a “wheel” that measured the actual length of the trail. Since the acquisition of GPS signals is best accomplished without foliage on the trees, this was a predominantly a winter-season effort. Due to the scope of the task (over 66 miles of footpath, including side trails) and acceptable weather days (no rain, snow or dense cloud cover), it took the winter of 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 to accomplish this data acquisition task.

For the portions of the BT where we had significant “experienced-derived” confidence in the USFS GIS/GPS data, we accepted their trail location data, but still gathered our own data for campsites, water sources, etc.

While the trail data acquisition effort was progressing, a “Grant Team” was formed by the NCBTS Board of Directors to seek the funds necessary to hire the cartographer and pay for the commercial printing of the map. The team began searching for funding sources and submitted a grant request in the fall of 2008 to the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area (BRNHA).

Due to the team’s excellent work, we were successful in obtaining a “matching” type of grant from the BRNHA in January of 2009 for both the cost of the cartographer and the printer. The estimated total cost was about $11,000 for the map development and the printing of an initial 3000 copies of the map, a significant number of which were to be distributed free to organization types specified in the grant.

This new BT map will be “more than a map”. The NCBTS has a dual purpose: Promote the contributions of William Bartram, as well as maintain the trail named in his honor. The interests of the BRNHA are to promote tourism and provide interpretive information of the natural treasures of western North Carolina. These are synergistic interests and thus the new map will also contain information on William Bartram, his contribution to the history of the area and his encounters with the Native Cherokees as well as interpretive information on the natural and cultural history of the region.

The intended cumulative effect of the new map is to enhance the experience of those already using the trail and increase the number of hikers, backpackers, nature enthusiasts, exercise enthusiasts, and history buffs that will come to the area and use the trail.

Once we were assured of the funds for the map effort, the search for a qualified cartographer began with “requirements” listing we placed on the internet ( discussing the requirements for our map. Fourteen firms responded to the listing with an eventual seven proposals being submitted. In May of 2009 the Ozark Cartographer’s Guild (OCG) was
selected by the Map Team and the Board of Directors as having the best qualifications and lowest proposed cost for the effort. The OCG cartographer assigned the map task was Kristian Underwood.

The initial transfer of GPS, wheel and interpretive data from the NCBTS to OCG was accomplished and in August 2009 the first draft map was delivered to the NCBTS by OCG for review and comment. Map Team members reviewed that draft, which we had in both hardcopy and digital form.

The Map Team thought Kristian had done an excellent job on the first draft in selecting the scale/size of the map and its geographic coverage……the really big “drivers’ in making a map. An initial review of the interpretive information placed on the map was made to ensure the area occupied by it did not interfere with the essential “hiking” information.

The map has progressed from that point to a second draft which was provided by OCG in November. The Map Team met again in early November for review of that map. That three hour review resulted in 13 pages of questions and clarifications which were transmitted to Kristian for his review prior to a face-to-face meeting with him in late November. All questions/clarifications were resolved successfully and the next phase of the map development could proceed.

Concurrent with the activity described above, the Map Team worked with the prospective publisher, Techna-Graphics, to establish the necessary financial and contractual relationships that will facilitate the printing process.

Over the last several months we have reviewed and commented back to OCG on a series of drafts and what is called the final “proof map”. This process was unavoidably extended in time beyond our original schedule due to the harsh winter conditions both in WNC and in Arkansas, the location of OCG. Multiple snow/ice storms with the concurrent loss of commercial power and the inability to travel for meetings, sometimes for days, prevented reviews of the map drafts. However we met as a team as soon as we could and the updated digital file of that “proof” map has now been transferred to the publisher, Techna-Graphics,

We are now in the publisher’s queue and it looks like we can expect a new NC BT map to be in our hands by the end of May or early June. We will then begin distribution of the free maps to the organization types specified in the BRNHA grant and to the commercial vendors who will sell the map. The map will also be available on this website.

The NCBTS feels that we have a new NC BT map that will not only be useful to the hiker, but will also add value to the experience of anyone visiting the western North Carolina Mountains. We hope the users of the map agree.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 10th, 2010 at 1:10 am and is filed under Announcements, Map. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 responses about “A Journey: The New Bartram Trail Map (Update)”

  1. Mark Brown said:

    This sounds great. I hope to get one as soon as you publish it. My fiancee and I plan to hike a large portion of the trail this June.

  2. Chris David said:

    I bought the new map at the NOC prior to hiking the Bartram from Wallace Gap to Cheoah Bald. Both me and Joe Miller thought that this map was as good as one can possibly be. For anyone who has a lot of experience in wilderness backpacking, with this map and a compass, a GPS is simply extra weight. I strongly feel that a detailed map is far superior to my GPS because it gives a much better overall, “eagles-eye” view of the area. Sure, a GPS is a good medium for some things like precise location and elevations. But when in the wilderness, we have to be much more engaged with our position relative to points that a GPS cannot reasonably provide.

    Your map is so exquistly done that I will recommend it to anyone who wishes to haike along any of the Bartram or its connecting trails. You left off no important imformation and crafted a map that a novice mapreader should be able to interpret.

    Regards and thanks,
    Chris David, N. C. Sierra Club Outings Leader

  3. Mark Budden said:

    The new map is great, but where can one get a waterproof version (of comparable quality to most other trail maps)? I raised this issue in a previous comment, but the comment seems to have disappeared… The quality of the content on the Bartram map is exceptional, but why would you print it on paper that dissolves when it gets damp?

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