When he first moved to Colorado Springs, avid hiker John Vasilakis was in paradise.
Here was a whole world of national forest trails to explore. But he and his wife soon found hiking here is different from Southern California and Connecticut.
"There aren't enough marks on any of the trails. We'd find ourselves getting lost quite often," he said. "Whenever we'd hit an intersection, we'd say, 'Should we go left or right?' and sometimes it was the wrong one."
Vasilakis felt the scale was too large on trail maps in stores. So he began making his own, hiking trails with a GPS device. He has a background in geographic information systems and computer mapping, and when friends started asking for his maps, he decided to go into business.
The first Pocket Pals hit store shelves last summer, and Vasilakis now has 13 of the Pikes Peak region plus maps for several Front Range fourteeners. They fit in the pocket, with the map on one side and trail descriptions on the other. Along with distance and elevation gain, the description includes difficulty ratings, trailhead directions and way points such as trail intersections and geographic features. "They're small, they're light, they fit in your pocket," he said. "They're very easy to handle."
The scale is much smaller than other commercial maps, less than a third of the scale of the National Geographic Trails Illustrated map of the Pikes Peak region. That means a lot more detail. But for those who want to explore different areas, it also means a lot more maps at $6.95 each. A hike up Pikes Peak on Barr Trail would require two maps.
Having walked every trail, Vasilakis also included the unofficial trails that aren't on many U.S. Forest Service or Trails Illustrated maps.
Upcoming projects include mapping the East Rampart Roadless Area near Monument, the gold trails around Cripple Creek and Victor, and parks of Colorado Springs.
Maps of the Section 16 area and North Cheyenne Ca?n are also available with the iPhone app PDF maps. For $3.99, hikers can buy the map and track their course as they hike. Of course, cellphone coverage is spotty in the mountains, so, Vasilakis said, "we always recommend to people to not use that as your only navigation in the field." The Android version is in testing.
Pocket Pals can be purchased at many bike and outdoors gear retailers and at outdoorsllc.com. Fifteen percent of profits goes to the Colorado Springs Trails and Open Space Coalition.