Just after the summer break began this year my family headed down to Arches National Park. I did my Senior Project in both Cartography and Geology on the Paradox Basin, essentially the process of salt deformation and geological uplift that helped to form many of the wonderful features of the park. I hadn’t been there in a few years and was excited to go back. I can still remember the thrill it was to come around the crest of the rock and see Delicate Arch for the first time (sadly I didn’t actually take that hike until I was in my thirties).
As part of the fun I thought I would, on my off hours, make my own hiking maps. The park service maps are good but I thought maps with a little more detail would enhance the experience. The maps turned out better than I thought they might. They were really enjoyable to produce because a place like Arches is really a challenge for a cartographer, it is a vast area but the geologic features are often times so subtle that one can easily lose the detail. Choosing the right scale is of utmost importance on maps like this. The map I made of Tower Arch was a thing of beauty, if I’m allowed to brag. It was very pleasing to look at and at first was my favorite map of the few that I produced. As we got onto the trail I was astonished at the things I had missed. Form follows function in cartography as well as architecture, and while my map was aesthetically pleasing. I found that it didn’t provide the essential information I needed for the hike. As we were walking along and I thought about what I could have done differently, I realized that the map actually told the truth but I made the choice to make a map that was pleasing rather than a map that was useful. Some of the things I missed were a little dangerous.
As we were heading back from the Arch I was thinking that there must be a lesson in this somewhere. Then I remembered the words of Jacob I had been “looking beyond the mark”.
“But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.” Jacob 4:14