Colorado Transect: The Joys of Paper Maps

“Wow, you’re starting in the southeast corner of Colorado. I just love Durango and Telluride. The mountains are fantastic.”

“No, not that corner, the SOUTHEAST corner, at Kansas and Oklahoma, the high plains and Picketwire Canyon.” I put my fingers to my forehead.

“Oh. Near Pueblo?” My good friend who has lived in Colorado for 30 years wrinkles her brow.

“About 150 miles east of Pueblo, but close enough.” I am baffled that most of my friends can’t draw a map of Colorado even though it is square. I yearn for the paper restaurant placemats of my childhood showing a map of colorful Colorado beneath my plate of fried chicken, with icons for oil, corn, and cattle areas, major highway lines, and the plains, mountains, and plateaus. Nobody looks at a state paper map anymore, choosing the convenient get-there-now tunnel vision of Google Maps.

I began this journey by inking my red diagonal line from SE to NW on a paper GTR Recreational Map of Colorado in January 2020. I then transferred that line to a sequence of 14 regional maps showing federal land ownership along the way. I could see the big picture of my journey on paper that spanned three pool tables.