For my internship this semester, I have been creating a hand drawn watercolor map of bike touring routes in the Missoula area. The four or five routes to be included all begin and end in Missoula. Prints of the final map will be available to Missoulians as well as traveling cyclists for free in bike shops around town as well as online. Bob Giordano of Freecycles and the Missoula Institute For Sustainable Transportation has been providing support through route information, distribution and production ideas, as well as contacts for more information.
You may be thinking, sounds interesting, but would I really want to use an inaccurate hand drawn map when I have Google maps with street view and an internet connection with seemingly endless resources for every kind of travel? It is true that at no other time in history have we been better able to conceptualize and represent the surface of our planet. On YouTube, if you type in “summit video,” you can literally see the view from the top of the world. In the last few weeks Google released the Street View Trekker tour of the Grand Canyon. You can now “hike” the Bright Angel Trail from your desk. If the purpose of maps is to represent a landscape, is it possible for them to be too successful? Maps that once read, “There be monsters here” are being replaced by trip reports with extensive GPS information, photographs, and videos. What does this mean for the future of exploration?
One of the most challenging parts of the project has been deciding how much information to provide. We have considered a range of options from a to-scale map with information about camping, water, and other relevant information, to nothing more than rough suggestions of directions or areas to explore. The final map will be somewhere in between. It will include route suggestions and ideas for finding additional resources. It certainly won’tinclude photographs, but there will be illustrations. I think this is a good middle ground that conveys my own experiences as well as provide some information for prospective travelers to get started.
The Wilderness and Civilization program has taught me about landscape connections. Connections are built through experiences. I have built connections with places through human-powered travel. My goal for this semester is to explore how this interaction is affected by preconceptions about what a place is going to be like while still facilitating and encouraging people to build connections to the places they live and travel.
I chose to draw a map and paint instead of take pictures in order to encourage human-powered travelers to create their own experiences, instead of search for an experience someone else has already had.