March 30, 2021
Each year, Xplorer Maps creates 5-6 original, hand-drawn “story” maps featuring national and state parks, countries, states and other interesting travel destinations worldwide. The process in determining “what’s next?” is typically the sole responsibility of brothers Chris and Greg Robitaille; they’re influenced by personal experiences, sentimental value, artistic interest or intrigue, and organizations that align with the Xplorer Maps mission of connecting people and place through education and interpretive mediums. Just as often, however, non-profit conservation and public land organizations from around the world reach out to XM after seeing the creative and custom work rendered with other collaborative partners.
Our next map, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, has been on the radar for a few years now as we inch closer to our goal of completing our 24 favorite U.S. national parks (Sequoia is now the 22nd in our collection; we’re almost there!). The map artwork is now finished, and the official release date is less than 2 weeks away.
As soon as the brothers decided they would take on one of the oldest national parks in this nation’s history, the research began. In October of last year, Greg dove into researching the significant historical sites and stories, iconic landscapes, cultural legacies, and other pertinent details that help shape our maps into educational and interpretive works of art. In January 2021, Chris then began the illustrative process which involves months of “back and forth” refining the finished product. As we get ready to release the final product, we want to share with you the beautiful history of Sequoia-Kings in California.
Sequoia is America’s second national park, established by President Benjamin Harrison on September 25, 1890. The park was originally created to protect the sequoia trees from being logged. This was the first time a national park was formed to protect a living organism: the Sequoiadendron giganteum. Before the National Park Service was established in 1916, the U.S Army Cavalry troops were responsible for protecting the landscape. It wasn't until 1903 that the “big trees” were accessible by wagon. Thanks to Captain Charles Young, the only African American Commission Officer at the time, increased access was granted to visitors interested in these magnificent trees. With more access to the Giant Forest area and an increasing number of visitors, iconic destinations like Moro Rock and the High Sierra Trail emerged as popular sites.
Chris, Co-founder and Artist, was particularly intrigued with featuring “two parks in one.” “I believe only one other time since our inception (10 years ago) have we rendered a map that encompasses two national parks together (Arches and Canyonlands in Utah was the other)”, said Chris as he reflected on the unique aspects of this latest project. “Although these two high Sierra parks are physically connected, it’s amazing to discover that the physical environments and ecosystems can be very different.”Half a decade after the opening of Sequoia, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established Kings Canyon as a national park. In 1940, the new park included the glacially formed Kings Canyon, the deepest canyon in North America, and absorbed General Grant National Park, expanding the parks’ acreage. Today, Kings Canyon contains mesmerizing rivers, waterfalls, cliffs, and meadows with opportunities for camping, horseback riding, and hundreds of trails to hike and explore.
Since the Second World War, the parks have been known jointly as Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Together, the parks host 1.5 million visitors each year and protect over 808,000 acres of designated wilderness. Over the years, the parks have used a unique practice of controlled burning to maintain the health of these trees; it also aids in the spreading of sequoia seeds. The purpose of this is to protect and preserve these unique and precious public lands so closely tied to our nation’s history.
“We are so proud to add another custom, hand-drawn national park map to our growing collection. Sequoia is now our 7th California-based map”, says Co-Founder and President Greg Robitaille. “It’s our hope to connect with Sequoia Parks Conservancy and help support their programs aimed to educate and inspire the next generation of visitors, providing opportunities for many to witness these amazing giants for the very first time.”
Get ready to enjoy the imagery of these extraordinary ecosystems comprised of glacial canyons, broad lake basins, lush meadows, sheer granite peaks, and (of course) the GIANT sequoia trees.
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