Thursday, February 24, 2011

Local cartographers drawing new map of Bob Marshall Wilderness

Posted By on Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 2:58 PM

Last summer and fall, Jamie Robertson and Amelia Hagen-Dillon, of the budding Missoula-based business Cairn Cartographics, and Robertson’s brother Thomas, collectively hiked some 800 miles in the Bob Marshall Wilderness over the course of 53 days with GPS devices in hand to create a new—and more accurate—map of the sprawling mountainous backcountry.

Their first map, which charts the southern half of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, is nearly done, and in order to raise enough money to print it, they’re using a novel approach: a web-based funding platform called Kickstarter. About two weeks ago Cairn Cartographics reached its $5,000 fundraising goal using Kickstarter, enough to print about 2,000 copies of its first map.

“We’re hoping to turn this into a full-time business, and a lot of that will depend on how well this first map goes,” says Robertson, a 26-year-old who holds a geography degree from the University of Montana and works in the school’s IT department. “We anticipate it will go well.”

Here’s the video Robertson and Hagen-Dillon posted to Kickstarter in hopes of persuading folks to donate (they're accepting donations for six more days, by the way, even though they've reached their goal):

And here's how Robertson and Hagen-Dillon's enterprise came to be:

We met in the summer of 2007 working for a non-profit research organization in the greater Yellowstone Ecosystem mapping the spread of invasive species. After two summers of following GPS units to random locations we started thinking about ways that we could combine our love of being in the back country and our love of maps with our cartography expertise. We realized that even some of the most popular wilderness areas in Western Montana don’t have up-to-date, user-friendly maps. So we started working. In the spring of 2010 we bought two GPS units, quit our jobs, and started hiking. Jamie’s brother Thomas joined us for most of the summer and between the three of us we created the most accurate data set of the trails in the South Half of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Since the weather turned too cold for data collection, we’ve shifted our focus to all the computer work it takes to create a beautiful and functional outdoor recreation map. We have long lists of places we would like to someday make maps of and hope to eventually make this our full-time work!

Robertson says they'll head out to chart the northern half of the wilderness later this year.

For updates on the project, follow Cairn Cartographics on Facebook.

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