When I was 14-15 years old, I wrote a series of 23 essays as a weekly assignment for my high school English class. I called the series "A Naturalist's Notebook." Naturalist's Notebook Table of Contents
NOTE: The address and the price for U.S.G.S. topographical maps quoted here are long out of date. For current information, visit the U.S.G.S. maps Web site.
If you want to go on a hike or a walk, or a bicycle ride, one of the most entertaining things, and certainly quite valuable, is a U.S. Geological Survey map. a map and a compass can mean the difference between getting lost and getting home in safety. However, U.S.G.S. maps can be useful and entertaining even in areas you know well. They can point out the names and elevations of mountains, hills, and lakes. They may show you a trail that you never knew was there. They show shipwrecks, old houses, fire towers, and many, many other points of interest.
U.S.G.S. maps are inexpensive; they only cost 75 cents each. I usually buy two maps of the same area—one for field use, on which I pencil in grid lines and note down important places, and the other one for home reference, which I leave "blank."
Each map is a very detailed model of the land. Hill shape and elevation is shown by contour lines. Houses are shown by small black squares. In areas where houses are too numerous to show, the area is colored in ed. Bodies of water are shown in blue, wooded areas in green. A map may seem rather complicated at first, but once you have experience in map "reading," every one is easy to "read."
I feel that I am a good map reader, and have much experience. Maps are very interesting to me, and they provide me with a lot of information about the surrounding countryside. They are especially useful for determining the length of a bicycle trip or a long hike.
U.S.G.S. maps can be obtained from this address: Washington Distribution Section, U.S. Geological Survey, 1200 South Eads Street, Arlington, Virginia 22202. Order blanks and instructions for map ordering are included with each map. Also, an index map of the state in which your quadrangle is in is included. Hen-Hud High School is in the "Peekskill" quadrangle. My house is in the "Haverstraw" quadrangle. In Westchester County, there are 14 quadrangles.
Upon request, a pamphlet entitled "Topographic Maps" and a key to the symbols will be given free. Just write to the address above.
All in all, U.S.G.S. maps are very useful, convenient, inexpensive, and entertaining to anyone interested, be they hiker, bicycle rider, commuter, or just a citizen who wants to be familiar with his surroundings.
They show how to get to a certain place, what it looks like, and what is there. They are "books" to "read" all kinds of information from.