National Forest "Enhanced MVUM" maps revival thread

axlesandantennas

Approved Vendor
Hey everyone! I'm back but now with more "oomph!"

First, I would like to thank ExPo for allowing me to become an Approved Vendor. Hopefully, within a few month, I'll upgrade to a forum sponsor.

Second, Thank you to everyone who posted to my original thread (Original Post) and made a purchase or comments.

Third, last year sucked for business. I started the Enhanced MVUM project just as Corona started to hit the US. As soon as the maps gained a foothold, states started to do shut downs. There was a lot of confusion as to how this impacted National Forests and I think people just kind of gave up and stayed home. I personally hit a wall as I was sucked into the news, which proved to be not a good move as it really upped my hypochondria. Long story short, I shelved the project until I saw fit that we were progressing forward.

Now that we can see forward progress, the maps are are coming out of mothballs. At this point, about 2/3s of the National Forest maps have been created in this fashion. This covers everything from East of the Mississippi and several areas of the PNW and general West. The remainder NFs are rather large so those will take some time. However, just like with the first go of this, if you need a NF that is not listed, let me know here or via email (info@axlesandantennas.com) and I will push it to the very top of the list and let you know as soon as I am finished.

Now, many of you are wondering what I am working on and selling. Here is the down and dirty (taken from my original post):

Some of you who know me, know that I have been a cartographer since about 2004 and my work with maps and GPS extend back into the early 90s. There is my bio, short and sweet, since bios are boring.


For the maps: I've been using the MVUM maps for a few years and to be quite honest, I found them lacking in detail and design. The Forest Service, and the USGS as well, do a really great job on the 7.5 minute topo quads many of us use, but the MVUM just was not cutting it for me. The entire map is essentially black & white / greyscale. It is very difficult to discern trail types. In the past, I was actually adding the MVUM to my GIS files and then overlay the trail that I was doing onto it. Sort of time consuming, but was more or less fitting my needs better. I had actually done this for some larger trail rides our local group was doing and drivers were really happy with them. This planted this idea in my head.


The other issue, and one that really drove me nuts, is that the MVUM only shows the MVUM trails. Other roads and trails, water, camp sites, etc are normally not on the map. So you had to have a few different maps with you. This just adds to clutter in the vehicle. I really don't like clutter. I also don't like to have to reference several map sources, which have different scales, different info, and different designs. It's easy to get confused.


So in late 2019, I started to work within the data sets that the FS has and began to arrange them in a way that is more intuitive. I wanted within the maps: 1) MVUM data that is actually colored to its purpose, 2) has other roads and trails, 3) gates, 4) locations of most campsites / campgrounds, 5) a baselayer of most topographic / geographic data, 5) all within an area of each Ranger District of the NF that is mostly contained within one map sheet (size/shape depending).


This actually took much longer than I originally thought it would because of the vast amount of data I had to sort though and then to place on a map in a way that not only looks good, but more importantly, is quick to read. Most of us are used to looking at a GPS of sorts that contains layered maps (like Gaia or OnX) and we can use those fairly quickly. We want to look at a map and immediately know what and where we are looking at. One road needs to not look like an adjacent trail. Two campsites can't be stacked on top of each other. Features need names. You get the idea.


The actual data was more or less easy to deal with, but it did have some issues that I needed to work out to make it work for my needs. Lots of duplicates. Some misspellings. Some things completely missed named. In order for a map to represent true conditions, errors like this need to be reduced as much as possible. So yeah, lots and lots of hours hunkered down at my computer.


The last major obstacle was coming out with a scale that would be easy to read and contain as much of a bounded area as possible. In this case, I used the Ranger Districts of each NF as the bounded area. For much of the US, this allowed a scale of 1:100,000. A USGS/NF topo quad is 1:24,000, so the new maps contain as much area as roughly 4 of the 1:24,000 type, but at a smaller scale. Is this an issue? I don't think so. Since most of us are driving, you can drive off the map page of a topo quad fairly quickly. On the 1:100,000 scale, we have about 35x55 miles of range. Most of the Ranger Districts are contained to one or two map sheets.


In early February (2020), the maps started to come together the way I wanted them to look. I had finally got the data sorted and reduced to show the main points of the maps but without looking too busy. The next hurdle was figuring a way to show the designated MVUM routes in a well defined method. I tried a few different ways and never was too satisfied with any of them when I would use the map while bouncing around on the trail. Then I had a “moment” of clarity: Parallel Lines!


The MVUM routes have two pieces of info: 1) what kind of vehicle, 2) when it can be used. So the routes are illustrated in parallel lines with one color corresponding to the type of vehicle that can be used and the other being when the route is open. All Vehicles get the color green, while Highway Legal gets red. Year long route openings get the secondary color of blue, while seasonal openings get orange. Special Designation routes get yellow along with the proper seasonal depiction. This was really the breakthrough that I/we needed in order for the maps to make the most sense in the shortest amount of time.


Now the really fun part (and I mean “for real” fun): compiling the map! I really enjoy this aspect of map design. This took a few weeks and those weeks were normally 10+ hour days. It's easy to get sucked into something when you enjoy it.


So what we have is a “Enhanced MVUM” map that is


  • 1:100,000 scale
  • covers about 1,500 square miles
  • shows all defined MVUM routes
  • shows all defined camp sites (about half are named)
  • shows all defined gates
  • shows all defined closed roads
  • shows all defined NFS, Ranger District, and wilderness area boundaries
  • Water bodies
  • elevation information
  • many USGS labeled points geographic areas (Mtn tops, rivers, etc)

Now, many of you, hopefully, will purchase these maps. And you will travel to a spot and may see something that is not on the map or is on the map and does not exist in real life. Unfortunately, there is very little I can do about this. Just the MVUM data set alone has 1,700,000 + road sections. There are more than 20,000 gates and about 10,000 listed campgrounds. As much as I would love to go and look at all of this in real life, I simply cannot. Maps are models, and as such, you have to make compromises. Scale, shape, features, these are all compromises. Maps, including GPS maps, should be used as references, not absolutes. I can assure you however, that the data from the Forest Service and the USGS is normally really REALLY good! And I have done my best to make this data work for you.


Overall, I am extremely happy with the results and I am optimistic that you will be too. Often, when many of us are immersed into a hobby/life style, we tend to think of how we can add our own personalities into the community. The “Enhanced MVUM” maps are my contribution. As now, I currently have eight National Forests (This has been updated by quite a lot) and their Ranger Districts posted and ready to ship. I am adding about 5 National Forests per day (more or less) to the website. There are a little more than 100 of these, so it's going to take about a month to get everything up and running. If you have a trip coming up and you want/need a specific map, that is no problem. Just send me an email and I'll get it arranged for you, normally within a few hours.


At this point, you are probably thinking “why are you charging for something that is typically free?” Excellent point. The MVUM maps are free to download. So are the USGS and FS topo quads. Hell, even the data for all of this is free to download. And you are correct. However, you would still need to finding a printing service to print the maps at full size. You would also need to compile the maps in a way such as I have. And believe me, that is a lot of time! But hopefully you will find the prices in the “not too bad” category. I print to order and the only inventory I keep is the rolls of paper, and a hard drive of my templates. Because of this, I can actually keep the prices fairly low while also managing to make a profit. Besides, you are not just buying a map, you are buying wall art!


Thanks everyone and I look forward to seeing you on the trails!

Because I will be updating the Map Catalogue of offerings each day, I will post the new National Forests each day for you. Just remember, if you don't see a map you want, just email me at info@axlesandantennas.com and I'll get it set up for you.



 

axlesandantennas

Approved Vendor
Since everyone loves action shots, here are a few from yesterday. We had some snow blow into the mountains down at the Tellico Ranger District / Cherokee NF. Buddy, in the 4Runner, and I put together a quick plan for an afternoon excursion. About two hours there, two hours back and 4 hours driving around. It was COLD and very windy when you got out of the valleys. These super awesome, make you want to purchase your own Enhanced MVUM, were taken at Farr Loop. Several good camp grounds along the Eastern/lower portion of the trail. Good fishing too, or so I'm told. We eventually got up to Hooper Bald just inside the NC state line. It was 18 degrees and probably 20-30 mile an hour gusts. Burrrr.

So here is my buddy in his 4Runner and my Wrangler. I am checking our location via the Tellico Ranger District map while using a Garmin GPS78s. The inside pic, you will see a few cables coming from the GPS. Those are power cables and an external Garmin GPS Antenna. The antenna makes reception way faster and much more accurate. You can see it as the little white dome peaking above the roof rack on the driver side.

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axlesandantennas

Approved Vendor
But where's the 3d camera for street view?:ROFLMAO:

Nice work! I'll need to order some of these. Any in process for Jefferson and Washington Nat Forests?
Can you imagine how blurry those images would be with the vehicle bouncing around? Haha

Here is the link to the Washington and Jefferson National Forests.

 

axlesandantennas

Approved Vendor
I've received a few emails asking about the durability of the Tyvek maps. Here is the link to just how hardy they are:


I have been asked about a few things with the tyvek concerning double sided printing and marking markings on them.

This particular tyvek cannot be printed on both sides. The printed side has a coating that allows for print. The back side does not and it looks more like unfinished fiberglass. I've tried a few methods to get around this and it just simply does not work.

As for making marks on the map, the only sure fire way of doing this is with pencil. Any kind of ink will become a permanent mark. This might be fine for autographs or site location but if you need to make temporary markings, either use a pencil or use a clear overlay. Other than that, you would need to purchase the laminated paper option. Tyvek, for those who are wondering, cannot be laminated.

Thanks all! And if you have any other questions, please post them here so that others can see. I'm here often enough to get back quickly.
 
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