The DeLorme gazetteer taught me everything I know about Maine

I don’t know about you, but I sure breathed a sigh of relief when I read that Garmin will keep making the DeLorme Gazetteer.

I’ve been a bookworm from early in life and the books that I have read and reread into crumbly-paged oblivion are many. But I would bet money–cold hard cash–that the book I’ve thumbed through more in my life than any other is the DeLorme gazetteer.

DeLorme gazetteer

My father loved little more in the summer than pulling out the DeLorme and navigating his way through Maine’s wilderness on old logging roads. I’d sit beside him, bouncing on the rough seat cover in his old truck, tracing our route along double dotted lines with my finger.

“Which way?” he’d say, stopping at a fork.

I’d frown at our location, frown at the lake we were trying to find, ponder for a moment and then pronounce, “Left! We need to go left!”

And then he’d turn left and we’d starting bouncing our way along again.

I learned how to read a map from DeLorme, no question. I also learned the symbols for “boat launch,” “campground,” and “swimming.” I gained a full understanding of how the cardinal directions work on paper and how they work on the ground and how the relationship between the two can be confusing. But I learned more than that.

I learned what August smells like in Maine: dusty grass, spruce, and sun-warmed roadside blueberries. I learned that my favorite flower is Queen Anne’s lace, especially when a patch stretches for miles down a logging road. I learned how to instinctively tell what car has the right-of-way on a one way road and I learned that the logging trucks always win. I learned that the most unpromising stretches could have treasure at the end and I learned that even the most tangled of Maine’s woods roads could have sense made of them. But you had to pay attention. I learned to pay attention.

I still keep a DeLorme gazetteer in my car. My job will occasionally take me into areas of the state that Google maps won’t touch. I’ll try to find the location of my meeting in a tiny town and the little red marker shows up in a field of unmarked gray. That’s when I know I’ve ended up somewhere off the map, somewhere technology hasn’t found. So I reach into the backseat for the DeLorme, which never leaves me hanging, and I start tracing my route with my finger.

My kids like to flip through the gazetteer, find our map (map 16!), and locate our road–which doesn’t appear on most road maps. But we’ve never sat down with it to find our route to a new fishing spot. They’ve never traced double dotted lines with one finger they way I did. We don’t seem to have the kind of time to take endless, pointless meanders down dusty roads like my dad liked. They don’t seem to have the same fascination with the gazetteer that I did.

Still, I’m awfully glad that Garmin is going to keep these things around. The DeLorme gazetteer is a huge part of Maine history and our collective soul. I’m happy to see it still makes good business sense, too. I guess the world hasn’t changed that much after all.

Now I guess I need to take my kids driving.

Cherie Galyean

About Cherie Galyean

In a perfect world, Cherie Galyean would spend hours every day chasing her kids up hiking trails, pretending to garden, and baking things. Instead, she works full-time in the non-profit sector and fits those other things in-between loads of laundry in her free time. A Maine native with multiple hometowns, she currently lives on Mount Desert Island with her husband, seven-year-old daughter, five-year-old son, and the best shelter mutt in the world.