I live about 30 miles north of Denver, Colorado – where there's a metropolitan population approaching three million. I own a 4x4 vehicle, but rarely go to the mountains and decided it was time to find a bug out location without having to go there. Perhaps I should mention that I’m a 60 year old female, and my husband thinks the whole concept of survival is complete rubbish! And while I own a GPS, I’m going to show you how to do this for free so you can prepare for a TEOTWAWKI situation.
The USGS has maps that are scaled at 1:50,000. The “New Generation” maps are not good at all. These maps will have “information” and “ads” over part of the map. That’s where you want to target….places where most people won’t be able to see on the maps they buy in the local stores.
I recommend you start with something that you know. I’m going to start with my childhood home. Once you can find something familiar to you, then we will advance to looking for a BOL that is unknown to you.
But first, here are the basic steps we are going to use, the examples will be below this. Click on this link
Pick your state, then under “scale”, click on 24000 and search. Note that there is a column for the date the area was surveyed. The older the better as you want to be looking for mines, caves and springs. Some of these survey maps go back to the 1800s!
Where it says “map name”, type in a city close to where you want to go.
Click on the far right hand column and the map will download. Be patient, it takes time. I have found that the circa 1980 survey maps are probably the best. Note: if the city you are looking for is not on the map, scroll to the outside perimeters of the map and look for other map names along the borders or in the corners, then download that map name.
You will want to download the USGS topographic map symbols and make note of the symbols for mine entrances and caves which looks like the letter “y” laying on it’s right side. Don’t confuse mine shafts with mines and quarries. Next, find the symbol for spring or seep. A spring is a blue dot and a seep is a short blue squiggly line. Maps older than 1980 will probably not use these same symbols.
An older map, such as an 1893 map, will show you where towns were that are now ghost towns. A great place to look for earth covered log cabins or ground cellars. These maps will also show you roads and railroad beds that are no longer maintained.
Once you have found the spot on a topographical map, you can then find the coordinates, plug them into google earth and zoom in to see exactly what’s there today.
Example # 1, my childhood home.
(Click the links to follow along)
I grew up just northeast of Noblesville, Indiana, so I picked “Omega” as my town name. As you can see, there are maps dated 1962, 1977 and 1994. I picked the 1977 map to download. Remember, it takes time to download these, so just be patient.
These maps are in PDF format, so you will need to download Acrobat’s PDF reader if you don’t already have it on your computer.
Next, I zoomed in to 200% and found my childhood home at the corner of East 266th Street and Cornell Road. Funny, when I was a kid there were no such street names. I lived on the Arcadia pike at the “6 mile jog”. You can even see the little black square where our home was, right at the jog in 266th street where Cornell goes to the south.
My childhood home.
From here, we want to obtain the GPS coordinates. To do that, simply scroll all the way to the left or right, to the end of the map and pick up the number which in this case is about 10’. But it’s a little north of the 10’ lines, so I’m going to estimate it at 10’ 5” Scroll to the top to pick up the degrees which is 40. So my latitude is about 40°10'5"N
Go back to the home location and this time scroll straight to the top or bottom of the map. This finds me between 54 and 55’. Scroll to the left where it shows the degrees at 85. So I will estimate my longitude is about 85°54'5"W
Next, you will need to download and install Google Earth. In the box where it says “fly to” enter: 40°10'5"N, 85°54'5"W
I came up about ¾ mile south of where I grew up, but close enough on Google Earth that I can track back and find the actual spot!
Once you have the spot on Google Earth, you can scroll around, look at terrain, find old mine entrances, look for old roads, paths, trails…just have fun exploring the area by air.
If you look on the Google Earth map of my childhood home, there is a woods just south of the place. You can see the creek going up to the right hand side. There’s a pond located at 40°09'50/-6"N, 85°53'57.54"W. In the photo, I’ve put white arrows to the pond. But look to the west with the small lines – there’s an old wagon trail going east off Cornell Rd. In the winter when the trees are bare, you can actually see the path, but with the leaves on, you can still see an indentation where the old path is. You can actually follow it on the left side of the creek north to where the George and Lucy King homestead was where it crossed the creek, then follow it on the east side up to E 266th Street. It’s these old abandoned trails that you want to be looking for. Places that are no longer traveled, that are not on any current maps. I do have this “road” on an old 1835 map of this area. But the path is still there today. (Please note that this is all private property that is no longer owned by my family, so don’t trespass, just enjoy from Google Earth!)
You may want to download all the different maps for your area as I found that none of them show 2 cisterns (overflowing wells) that were in this area. One was just ½ mile south of where I grew up, on the west side of Cornell Rd. There’s a house there, but nothing marking the well. Interesting.
Now try to do these same steps for a place that you know. It’s a great way to learn how to do longitudes and latitudes and how to find your way around Topo Maps and Google Earth.
Next, we’re ready to find a but-out location without ever going there….in a place that you don’t “know.”
Example # 2:
Here’s an example you can easily follow to get you started. I wanted to find a place I went camping nearly 35 years ago. So I clicked on “Colorado”, set the scale to 24000, and the map name of “Garfield”. I then downloaded the pdf for 1982 and I zoomed in to about 200% to get a better detail.
The latitudes are on the far left and right side of the map. Scroll down to 38° 32’30”68 N. (Because I’ve already completed the steps, I can give you exact locations to make this easier.) Longitudes are across the top and bottom (you may need to zoom out to find the spot) and go to 106° 17”30”. You should have the town of Garfield in view. Zoom in to 200%. You will see a 4x4 trail going north up “Taylor Gulch”. Be aware that many 4x4 roads on the map are literally ATV trails, but can be maneuvered in a narrow 4x4.
As you follow this trail north, you should see the Garfield Mine. Notice that this is the “Y” on the side, so it is a mine or tunnel opening. Just north of that are 3 more mines, then the “Lilly Mine” with an opening, another mine above that….several mines with tunnel openings in this area. That Lilly Mine is where I used to camp.
Pay attention to the elevation. Garfield is at 9509 feet and the Lily Mine is at 11,300 feet – way too high for a BOL. You should see a creek coming down Taylor Gulch. This is a dash/dotted line, so it is a seasonal creek from snow runoff. But if you look just to the north and east of Garfield, you will see “Hermit Springs.” Water!
So now, let’s look at this on Google Earth. In the upper left hand corner, under “search” click on the “fly to” tab and enter
Enter it as simply: 38°33'5.36"N 106°17'28.94"W (You can simply cut and paste.)
This will take you to Garfield at the opening on Hwy 50 for Taylor Gulch. Pretty close to the above coordinates from the topographical map. Now, zoom in until the road numbers show up. (be sure to click “roads” on “layers” on the left side in Google Earth.)
You should now see that the road is numbered Co Rd 228 and you can travel north on that road and you will see that each of those old mines are now being re-mined. Not a good BOL.
But while we’re here, let’s find Hermit Springs.
Enter: 38°33'20.40"N 106°16'25.21"W
Today, the springs is in a nice tree covered area and there’s an old mining road going up the ravine to and past the springs.
Being 60 years old I’m certainly not going to bug-out to this altitude. But there are thousands of mines in the Colorado mountains and many are at much lower altitudes. I simply wanted to show you how you can find mines and springs without spending money on a GPS.
The last thing you should consider in preparing your bug out location are road closure gates. We have many on Colorado highways that simply say “test location.” My personal opinion is that they are there specifically for a TEOTWAWKI event. Know where they are between your home and your BOL If they are in your “path” – find an alternate route. When I tried this out, I found out that I literally cannot get out of Denver without bypassing numerous gates! I simply need to be out of town before the TEOTWAWKI event, or plan to break through the gates. And I thought about that, but what if there are guards at each gate? Great way to keep everyone in town. But with my BOB packed and ready to go, I’m willing to take a risk and G.O.O.D. before the gates go down!
PS. I tested this last week – took a drive and went to the actual place that I had picked out. Drove right to it. I found a nice seeping spring with water. My surprise was a cistern just down the road that was not on the map. The location has an abandoned mine that BLM has not closed off at this point. It is also about one mile from a good running creek. Great location! I hope you can find one with this method, too!