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Washington Road & Recreation Atlas

The devil's in the details

If you enjoy getting off the beaten path, a good map is hard to find. But if there's a group of people out there who produce local maps and live what they create, then you'd probably be glad to know they exist. They do.

I consider myself something of a connoisseur of back roads and like nothing more than disappearing up a deserted road and exploring its views, terrain and whatever secrets it holds. But you can't do that with a pullout map from AAA.

There are a number of detailed road atlases on the market, some better than others. My favorite at this point in time is the Washington Road & Recreation Atlas. Similar in size to DeLorme's Gazetteer, the WRR Atlas includes thousands of miles of tertiary roads in the state that rarely appear in other guides. Whether you ride on-road or off-road, the WRR Atlas has something for everybody.

Pavement riders will appreciate its attention to detail. While others fail at noting if a road turns to gravel, the WRR Atlas shows exactly where a surface change occurs so you don't wind up taking your Road King onto a pea gravel surface when you'd rather not. Sure, you can ride from Selah up Wenas Road and over Umtanum Ridge, and on the AAA fold out map it looks like its pavement all the way � its not. The WRR Atlas makes this very clear.

Above/right - While some maps show the road paved, it's not entirely between Oakville and Brooklyn as you can see in the WRR Atlas.

Off-Roaders and Dual-Sporters will really appreciate the guide's inclusion of gates and gate closure details. For instance, you can ride off-road from Skokomish on the Hood Canal all the way to Humptulips entirely off-road. But don't try it on April 30 th �  the gate isn't opened until May 1 st and you would know that if you had the WRR Atlas. In general the off-road maps are more detailed and current than anything I've seen on the market, including USFS maps. You really can get to Brooklyn from Oakville just off Highway 12, the WRR Atlas will show you the way.

Above/left - FR23 is a fun one to take off-road between the Hood Canal and Lake Wynootchee. But forget about making the trip between October 1st and April 30th due to Wildlife closures as is noted in the WRR Atlas.

Out-of-date maps can be a bummer. Roads wash out, places change, roads get built and before you know it a map that's five years old is simply a waste of your time. Did you know maps like the one's put out by King of the Road actually start their cartography using US Geological data from the 50's!!! That's why theirs says you can ride on pavement from Green Water to Little Naches River. But you really can't � the road was planned but never built. Unlike most maps and guidebooks, the WRR Atlas is updated every two years!! While that may not make the best fiscal sense, the publishers of the WRR Atlas show a level of responsibility toward their customers unmatched by most.

For the 2004 printing, 10,000 miles of roads were surveyed for accuracy. The publisher stays clear of relying on US Geological surveys, aerial photography and other untested means as the final say if a road is passable and legal to travel down. While these formats may serve as a starting basis, the WRR Atlas takes it one step further tracking the actual roads.

The Recreational Maps at the front of the book provide information on hundreds of roadside attractions, natural wonders, recreation areas, wild life, historic sites and museums. You could spend a few evenings with your head buried in this book, only to realize you're going on a long vacation, right here in Washington State!

Another favorite about the atlas is the page overlap, which is to say how much appears on a page edge that is shared by another page in the book. The WRR Atlas features a generous page overlap so it's easy to find where a route continues on from a previous page.

If there's one place the atlas falls short, it's at the digital domain. While the book provides GPS grids, there are no plans at present to reproduce the book on CD-ROM. That means there's no way to upload a route into a GPS without manually clacking it out. For now just copy the pages for personal use, stuff them into your tank bag and ride!

The people who worked on this book live here and have a passion for traveling locally. In my opinion that beats the pants off anything some 900 pound corporate cartography gorilla from back east can crank out. 

Patrick Thomas/Spring 04


For more information, or to purchase the Washington Road & Recreation Atlas CLICK HERE


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