At it’s heart the art of cartography is thousands of small decisions- about where to place labels, which features to label, which font and what size to use, or how to symbolize different types of geographic and cultural features. There are standards of course but there is so much room for expression within the standard.
When you make several of the same type of map the number of those decisions is drastically reduced and the process becomes less artistic and more formulaic. I still love the challenge of fitting all the information in the given space in the best way possible, but after a few years of doing that we were itching to get back to the creative side of cartography.
We have talked about (and received requests for) a map with the whole Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex since 2011 when we printed our first map. This spring the concept for that map finally started to take shape. We knew we wanted it to be totally functional so you could use it to daydream about new trips or reminisce about trips passed. We also wanted it to be an art piece- something that would look good in a frame on someone’s wall.
On the map you will find all the trails, cabins, trailheads, and ranger stations plus all the peaks, streams, rivers and geographic features that are on our other maps all overlaid on an updated terrain shading.
It also turns out when you put the entire Bob Marshall on one rectangular sheet of paper you end up with the entire Mission Range and Rattlesnake Wilderness on the page as well!
“There are some good things to be said about walking. Not many, but some. Walking takes longer, for example, than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed. I have a friend who’s always in a hurry; he never gets anywhere. Walking makes the world much bigger and thus more interesting. You have time to observe the details. The utopian technologists foresee a future for us in which distance is annihilated. … To be everywhere at once is to be nowhere forever, if you ask me.” –Edward Abbey
I spend a lot of time ruminating on this Edward Abbey quote when I’m on the trail. There’s something about the pace of walking that just feels “right.” My brain can easily keep up with processing the sights, sounds and smells around me when I’m not hurriedly trying to figure out where to put my feet or bike tire or ski.
In the age of the Go-pro walking at three miles and hour with fifty pounds on your back doesn’t seem very flashy, especially next to that video your friend posted of ripping down that crazy descent on a mountain bike. It’s humbling to spend an entire day putting one foot in front of the other and in the evening retrace my crooked path across the my current corner of the map but exhilarating to think I’ve made it that whole way under entirely my own power.
There is still a lot of snow up high but summer planning has begun and after an office-intensive spring I couldn’t be more excited to start walking again.
We’ve turned the corner on summer, instead of feeling the luxury of extra time in longer days and open schedules stretching into the future, we’re looking September in the eye. We’re feeling the occasional hint of fall in a cool morning. There’s a reassessment happening, a taking stock of adventures planned and adventures had and a frantic planning to squeeze the remaining river trips, hikes and summer meals into the next few weeks. Maybe we feel this especially strongly in a college town where at times it feels like the whole city operates on a September-June school schedule.
Driving down some forest service roads the other day I was struck by how right now is the pinnacle of summer, that elusive point where foliage is full and green without a single hint of red or yellow. Orchards and gardens everywhere are bursting with the riches of late summer. Evenings are warm and lingering, days are hot and the hazy sky is buzzing with horseflies and mosquitos. As usual I feel like summer snuck through while I was looking the other way which is not necessarily a bad thing. The last few weeks have been full to the brim in a wonderful way- traveling to visit family, swimming in lakes after long hot days exploring a new mountain range, a few lazy afternoons on the river, some delicious summer meals with friends, and of course shipping out order after order of maps to wholesalers around Montana and customers across the country. I couldn’t really ask for more, but I’m still feeling the crunch to eat more corn on the cob and stand on top of some dramatic peaks and generally just soak up as much summer as I can before the days get noticeably shorter and life shifts into its fall schedule.