Topo Lines

I love topo lines. That seems like a weird thing to say, but let me unpack this a little bit. Ever since I was little I’ve been fascinated by maps. I loved looking through maps, figuring out routes between places, and generally geeking out about them. If I had my life to do over again, I probably would have gone into the GIS (Geographic Information Systems) side of Information Technology (though, in reality, that might have killed my interest with technical minutiae and dealing with earning a living off of maps).

As art pieces I’ve often put up maps around my house, and for many years the basement family room was covered in three large maps of the USA, Minnesota, and the Twin Cities in increasing levels of detail. I’ve since taken those down and currently the only map in my office is a small one of the Superior Hiking Trail. However, I have a beautiful Myrmel Map of the SHT that I need to get framed or mounted soon. It’s been sitting in my office rolled up and ready to go for far too long.

This love of maps includes aspects of maps that easily translate to artistic expression. Specifically, the topo line. Topographic lines are used to delineate changes in elevation on different parts of a map. Each line is assigned a value to designate how many feet above sea level that part of the map is. Then as you move across the map you can look at the topo lines to see if your route goes uphill or downhill. The closer the lines are to one another the steeper the incline. Learning to read topo lines is an important skill for outdoor people who want to either avoid a challenging hill, or tackle it head on.

Besides their usefulness, topo lines just look cool. When my favorite running clothing brand PATH Projects started using topo lines on their clothing I snapped up everything I could. One of may absolute favorite pieces is the Billy Yang hat that they produced that is covered in topo lines (highlight picture on this post). When you see me running in warmer weather, I’ll usually be decked out in my favorite shirts and hats that feature topo lines. In fact, later this Spring I’ll be getting a tattoo that will feature topo lines, but more on that once I can reveal the finished piece.

So that’s the story of topo lines and why I love them, and maps overall. Just typing this blog got me thinking about a lot more about what I could do to display maps and topo lines in my office. Now I just need to find the time to actually put things in motion.


Beer, running, and geeky things.

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