It is important that you should understand your scales. However, this has nothing to do with singing ‘The Happy Wanderer’ while traipsing gaily through the hills. It’s the relationship between the distance on the ground and the distance on the map.
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For a map to be of use to a hiker, the distances between two points on it need to be accurate. If a hiker wants to walk from point A to point B, he or she should be able to calculate the distance on the map, and then calculate what the real distance is on the ground. So if the map has a scale of one inch to one mile, and the distance between two points on a map is one inch, it means that the distance on the ground is one mile.
But because one rarely walks in a straight line, it will usually be a good deal further (especially if one becomes temporarily misplaced before reaching point B).
Always remember though, if asked how far there is to go, you shouldn’t give a distance in miles. Instead, hold your hand up, create a gap between your thumb and index finger, breathe in through gritted teeth before saying, ‘According to the map, about that far.
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