Exploring the Trails of the Appalachians with the Appalachian Mountain Club

Over 2,000 KM and counting!

The Appalachian Mountains stretch over 2,000 kilometers in the eastern United States. With easy access from New York and Montreal, along with picturesque views and some of the most beautiful fall foliage, it’s one of the most popular hiking and outdoor areas in the country. The mountain range is also home to the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), the oldest conservation and recreation organization in the US. We spoke to Larry Garland, the staff cartographer at the Appalachian Mountain Club to learn more about their mapping program, the club itself and why they put their maps in the Avenza Map Store.

Appalachian Mountain Club

The Appalachian Mountain Club was founded in 1876. The original charter focused on “exploring the mountains of New England and adjacent regions, both for scientific and artistic purposes,” Larry tells us. “Today, the mission of the AMC is to foster the protection, enjoyment and understanding of the outdoors. Our core values are reflected in three strategic themes: Active Conservation, Outdoor Journey and Recreational Network.”

The AMC has lots of staff-led experiential programs for adults and school-aged children for outdoor learning. The different chapters of the AMC host activities and outdoor adventures across multiple disciplines such as hiking, camping, cycling, paddling and rock and ice climbing.

With a degree in Business Administration and a master's degree in Computer Information Systems, he worked as a programmer, systems analyst and IT manager for 10 years in Boston.

When adventure called, Larry took a 3-year hiatus and traveled the world and climbed many mountains on 5 continents in search of answers to life’s questions.

In 1994, he volunteered for the AMC to apply his computer skills to the Northern Forest Inventory, analyzing satellite imagery for trends in timber harvesting. Until 1994, the AMC had been producing all their trail maps (and they have a lot!) from hand-drawn acetates. “Working with the satellite imagery inspired me to propose that the AMC produce digital hiking maps using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), despite the fact that I’d never produced a map before. They took the bait and I’ve been making digital maps ever since,” Larry tells us.

Larry in the field
Hikers in the mountain

He works out of the AMC north country facility in Pinkham Notch, NH at the base of Mt. Washington. He is an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast.

Larry is passionate about creating the most accurate and up-to-date maps for the AMC. My favourite part of creating maps is the fieldwork that we do to provide up-to-date content,” Larry tells us. “Having hiked most every trail we publish allows me to be ‘in the map’ when composing it and literally ‘draw upon’ and share my experience.”

Hiker in the mountain

“When I began looking for resources for how to make digital maps, I was referred to Macromedia Freehand with the MAPublisher plug-in. Although I’ve migrated from Freehand to Illustrator, I’m still using Avenza’s MAPublisher after 26 years.”

Even though AMC recommends that hikers always carry a paper map, digital maps have many perks. “Digital maps can be quickly and easily updated as new information becomes available. They can also be deployed more easily than printed maps.”

Not only are AMC trail maps composed using MAPublisher, but they’re also all available for purchase in the Avenza Map Store.

Check out all of the trails Larry’s hiked with AMC’s maps in the Avenza Map Store here! For more information about the AMC, check out their website at outdoors.org