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On our last trip, we had some fun comparing data with reality. Let's start with the signs marking the various trails we hiked. At Twin Lakes, we started up towards Silliman Pass at a sign that indicated it was 1.3 miles away. Off we went.
When we got down to the other side of the pass, we found another sign. This one told us that Silliman Pass was 2.0 miles back up the trail...and that Twin Lakes was 3.0 miles away.
So at least in this case, 1.3 + 2.0 = 3.0. And we found other cases that were similar. It's almost as if the people making and placing the signs really never looked at what they were doing.
Too bad we can't use that kind of math to resolve the federal deficit. (By the way, our map had completely different mileages for each of these legs, so the real distance really is still anyone's guess.)
When you combine that with a beautifully maintained trail we took that wasn't on the map, and another trail we took that was on the map but was only a rough route that petered out completely on the ground; it all just serves to warn you that the difference between what you see on the maps and signs may not accurately reflect reality on the ground.
That's not to say you shouldn't take a map! We never travel with maps, and often with various scales and verions. On this trip we ended up using ours extensively to figure out how to get out of the deadfall mess that the missing trail had led us into.
And it worked.
And if it hadn't we could have still use the map to start a fire and keep warm.
Maps are good. You just can't always trust them.