Camp Arowhon - Algonquin Park

I received an urgent note from Ed Hicks of Orienteering Unlimited in May asking if I could squeeze in a small project before the end of June. I was pretty busy but when I heard that it was at a beautiful camp in Algonquin Park I had to say yes. He accepted my cost proposal and my estimate that I could complete it at sprint standard in less than one week. It was important that it be completed before camp officially opened and the first 450 kids and all the 150 counselors moved into camp.

As it turned out, it was a wonderful setting and I socialized with many of the enthusiastic staff members. They had been looking forward to a good orienteering map to support their adventure programs in the summer and fall.

However, my dreams of relaxing at the end of the day with a nice swim and/or cruise around the lake in a kayak were never realized. There was a topographically accurate 10-year old property map but it was missing half of the 100+ buildings and the clearings were not well defined. As well, the twisty hiking trails had to be plotted from scratch. It took a full six days of work to complete the map. Somewhat more than I had proposed for the 0.6 sq. Km area, but I also provided some cartographic "extras" that the client really appreciated. I explain below.

A couple of "extras" that I enjoyed were the camp meals and a private little cabin by the lake. I didn't take the picture at right but it looks like it was taken out my back window. The loons would cry all evening and in the mornings they would be floating by even closer than this one appears. Perfectly at ease with the people in the camp.

The field checking was reasonably straight forward except for base map buildings that had "disappeared" and replaced by one or more new ones. In this section of the map many of the buildings were new since the base map or had been relocated. Measuring the dimensions and layout of the new buildings took a lot of time. Note to self: Never start another sprint scale map project without high resolution and current set of air photos. Orthophotos preferred. Taken when the leaves are down. Colour is nice but not necessary.The resolution of the Google earth photos of camp area were no use except to confirm the scale of the base material.

Plotting the hiking trails with a GPS track was not very effective as the thick woods limited the accuracy of my hand-held unit. So I used good old paces & bearings. On twisty, hilly paths my accuracy limit is less than 100m (or 4 major bends) so I would stop and try to find a base map feature to correct my location. A very time consuming process for a single orienteering "object" but that is often the case with paths in the forest that can't be seen on the base photos.

Much less frustrating was plotting the Frisbee golf course. With the tall pylons of the zip line as a good reference point for my bearings, I plotted all 9 holes in almost one pass. The steep hill on #3 and #4 caused the most problems as it really messed up my pace count. I didn't have it with me, but my range finder might have saved me some time in this case. The zip tower close to the basket at #4 enabled me to quickly adjust my readings back to #2. The "building" at right is a canopy-covered sort-of L-shaped climbing wall. Do you like my symbols for the Frisbee "tee"s and baskets?

Where's the green? That was one of Ed's first questions when I sent him my first draft of the map. Virtually all of the woods around the camp were thick - at least 80% middle green or slower. I started to add the green to my fieldwork but after a couple of days I realized that if I continued, the map would look like the slice here - a dark green blob of forest with a "settlement" along the lake. I discussed the forest colour options with the camp management and they preferred the white (we know they are thick) woods on their map. 

While I was there, the owners asked me if I could build a "locator" map of the camp. Working with the camp counselors, we identified 121 buildings or activity areas like the zip line and climbing wall. Placing all the codes and pointers onto the orienteering map, building the index and completing the final drawing took the better part of a day. Using the "hide symbol" option in OCAD I was able to build one master map that could be used as an  orienteering map or, with a few clicks and two drags, a locator map for campers and visitors.

I also produced a simple canoe-O map of the lake that included the docks along the camp shore, small bays, and a few other features that I could extract from the government topo.

Ed Hicks, who is a distributor of OCAD, provides his clients with a copy of the software as part of each contract. The counselors were keen to learn how to use OCAD so they could make map corrections themselves and draw their courses. In a couple of hours they were happily moving buildings around and plotting adventures for their campers. I left the camp satisfied that the map would be well used and maintained.