Thursday, June 5, 2014

GTD = Get The Directions

I just completed our newest map for our summer adventure camps in North Carolina. Believe it or not, one of the most labor intensive tasks of planning group camping trips is creating the map & directions. This map took 10 hours to make.

During the early years of GTD we used to use the map & directions as listed by the US Forest Service. Bad idea. Many times the "official directions" by parks departments were (and still are) so vague and confusing that it occasionally resulted in groups getting lost, sometimes for hours at a time, trying to find the campsite. Many of the campsites are outside of cell phone range and don't have addresses because they are in such remote places. That makes calling or finding someone to ask for assistance nearly impossible. I remember one bus driver getting so frustrated by the "official directions" as he drove a charter bus around in circles that he threw the directions in the air while muttering how useless they were. He may or may not have thrown in a curse word or two. By the time he finally found the camp, he was quite flustered.

Since that time I've been making our own maps & directions with detailed descriptions and landmarks. The trip can't start until the group arrives. And if they can't find us or contact us then that means wasted hours of frustration on an unnecessary search & find mission. GTD sometimes means, Get The Directions. Nowadays, we "recon" the campsite before we do the trips and write down helpful information, descriptions, and landmarks that help groups find the camp. We include GPS coordinates, the address of the nearest business, mileage, turn by turn instructions, and landmarks that will be seen along the way (as well as landmarks that will be seen if they drive past their turn). And if the camp is real tricky to find, I go into town hours before the group is scheduled to arrive so that I can be within cell phone range to help guide them in and give them a personal escort to camp. It's a lot of extra work, but every minute of effort saves our participants hours of lost time. And the good news is that once it's done we can use the same map over & over again for years to come.

Here are the "official directions" given by the US Forest Service to a camp we use in TN:
[Take] highway 165 for 6 miles. Turn right onto Forest Development Road 210 (Tellico River Road) for 10 miles. Turn left onto 217 (North River Road). The camp is located 2 miles on the left.
Here are our directions to the same camp based on several groups getting lost from the US Forest Service's directions:
Pay attention to your mileage!! From Hwy 68 in Tellico Plains, TN take Hwy 165 East for 5 miles (Landmark: You will cross a bridge at the 3 mile mark). At mile 5 VEER RIGHT onto Forest Road 210 (This turn is easy to miss. It’s also called “River Rd”. You won’t see a "FR210" sign until after you veer right and drive for 1/10 mile). Take FR210 (“River Rd”) East for approximately 9.5 miles (This is a very scenic narrow curvy road that follows the river the entire drive. Landmark: Bald River Waterfall at 6 mile mark). At approx 9.5 mile mark FR210 crosses a bridge - DON’T CROSS THE BRIDGE!! Turn LEFT just before the bridge onto North River Road (This road is NOT well marked). Take North River Rd approximately 1.75 miles to McNabb Campsite (After 1 mile North River Rd becomes a curvy gravel road that follows the river the entire drive). McNabb Campsite is easy to miss (Just before you cross the 2nd small bridge there will be a small gravel road on the left with a lock gate across the road... This is McNabb). Use the Gate Combo listed in your Trip Organizer to unlock gate (line up numbers, push the lock in, and it will spring open). Open gate, drive thru, CLOSE & LOCK GATE (push lock closed & spin numbers off combo). WELCOME TO CAMP!!!
Sound exhausting? It is, but the results are undeniable when the groups find the camp on their first try! Once they arrive the hardest part is over and the true adventures can begin!  - DUG <><