They can be journals of travels past or plans for future travel or they can tell the history of a place. A map is generally defined as a two dimensional representation of the physical features of a given area. They show the relationships between physical features of an area based on distance, direction, size, and elevation and may provide information related to geographic features, roadways, and political boundaries. A map can be seen as nothing more than a piece of paper with a bunch of dots and lines on it, or it can so much more.
Map #1While cleaning a bookshelf, I came across some old topographical maps that I used on numerous backpacking trips in Mexico’s Copper Canyon, or Barancas del Cobre. The last time I was there was in 2004, and although I have many amazing memories of those trips, some of the details have faded over the years; but then I started looking at the maps. Suddenly, all those squiqqles and dots brought back memories of the places I visited and the people I met. I remembered the woman hanging her morning laundry on a tree as we hiked up the arroyo from Batopilas to Mesa San Jose. She smiled and wished us “Buenas dias y buen viaje” and then called to her son who hiked several miles with us. Actually, he ran up and down the steep slope to the mesa while we slogged along with our backpacks. I remember him stopping to wave wildly to us as he headed back home. Map #2Then I looked at the area around Los Alisos, named for the Alder trees that grow in the arroyo leading up to it. Near the confluence of the arroy with the Rio Urique, there’s a great little swimming hole at La Laja. The water was ice cold, which felt absolutely amazing after a morning of hiking in the hot sun, and there was a wonderful flat rock large enough to stetch out on and dry off. After our swim, we headed uphill again (there’s a lot of up and down in Copper Canyon). I remembered how nice it was to have the shade of the alders, and then in Los Alisos, we were treated to oranges picked fresh from the trees and were even given some to take with us. Those little dots on the map brought to mind the image of the smiling farmer and his wife and their hospitality to a group of tired hikers.
Those are just a few of the memories that perusing those maps brought back, and there were many others as I used those maps to travel back in time and revisit some incredible places and people. Map #3Looking at them also got me to thinking about other trips I want to take as well as hikes closer to home in the Big Bend. Several hours flew by as I planned hikes to take in the cooler temps this fall. Some are places I’ve been before and want to go back to and some are places for new exploration. The possibilities are endless. In fact, today is slightly overcast and cooler than usual. Might just have to go take a hike.


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