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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Trail Work


NCT trailhead

Did you ever wonder how trails get marked so that people can find them? Often it's due to the efforts of volunteers. This is almost exclusively true on National Scenic Trails like my favorite, the North Country Trail. I personally maintain a section, and I went to work on it some today. That means that I took a hand saw, clippers, scraper, and a jar of the official blazing paint. This is what the trail looks like just as you leave this road. The next blaze is a blue mark on a tree. Can you find it?
blue trail blaze

The picture was too small to really see it. But when you are standing at that post, you can easily see it. That's the point... to be able to see just one more blaze from the one you are at. The paint blazes last quite well. The official paint is oil based, so it's a really messy job. I keep a set of old clothes to wear just for this. You have to first scrape the outer bark (not damaging the live tissue of the tree) to make a smooth place for the paint to adhere. You always get bark in your face and eyes. Then paint the blaze, making nice square corners, 2 inches by 6 inches.
blue trail blaze

This is how you know when to turn. The top blaze is offset in the direction of the turn, left in this case. I didn't finish my section today. I haven't touched up the blazing in a few years, and it's going to take a few trips to get it all done. I also cut out a couple of fallen trees. If there are any big ones, I let the chain saw crew know, but I got the ones today with a bow saw.

Blazing is really messy and nasty work. I kept it up for 2.5 hours today, and that was plenty. My right shoulder is bad, and it was telling me it had had enough. But I like knowing that people can easily find the trail.



13 comments:

betchai said...

oh wow, i don't think i saw paint as trail marks here or maybe i am not looking at all or maybe not understanding it. i will look for it next time. i know what i mostly see here for hard to tell trails are rock cairns, and i believe volunteers do it too. really thanks for their time.

RNSANE said...

You can tell I've never been a hiker!! Very interesting information! Glad they're are folks like you who are trailblazers, Shark!

Secondary Roads said...

That trail sure looks inviting!

Dennis the Vizsla said...

This reminds me of my story "Trailblazing". Only with a happier ending.

Lion Rampant said...

Well done, I'm sure if I tried to trailblaze for 2 and a half hours, I'd still be out there.

JOE TODD said...

May your paint always stay bright. Hope shoulder is feeling better

Ann said...

The first picture makes me want to walk down that trail. It sounds like an awful lot of work but it also sounds like it could be quite enjoyable. Hope that shoulder feels better soon

Mother Goose said...

This is a fascinating post. Any time I learn something new, I'm excited.

Sharkbytes said...

betchai- a lot of western trails do use cairns because of so much bare rock. In the east one is much more likely to find painted blazes. I need to visit your blog... will get there tonight!

Carmen- well, I do my little part, but there are thousands of others out there helping to insure that I can follow the trail while I'm hiking!

Chuck- c'mon over, I'll take you there, or maybe some places even prettier.

Dennis- or more properly Dennis' daddy- that is a GREAT story! Anyone who is checking these comments, and wants a little fiction fix, check it out!

Lion- I try to have enough sense to come home while I can still use the arm!

Joe- Hey you! Go to Blue Blazes! I hope you know that I'm referring to the Buckeye Trail's campaign to keep their blazing fresh! You probably knew all this already, except the BT allows latex paint, and it's a slightly lighter shade of blue.

Ann- That's what we want to do- entice people to hike and make them feel secure that they can find the trail! The shoulder is fine... I know about how far I can push it... it's been bad for 40 years.

Mother Goose- I'm really glad you like it... I wasn't sure if it would be boring to normal humans.

Ratty said...

This is very interesting. I never knew how this was done. Almost all of the trails I've been on have been in nature parks. I've had a lot of conversations with park officials about the trails, and how things are done, but it only applies to their parks.

Sharkbytes said...

Ratty- I've decided to give more details about this the next time I go out. I was hoping for today, but instead we spent the day waiting for a repair person to show up at Josh's house. Of course they never came, so it looks like tomorrow will be shot too.

Julia said...

I have noticed that trail marking out of state is usually excellent. I love the color code style markings. In Ca our parks are not so well marked from time to time. Good thing I have a sense of direction...

Sharkbytes said...

Julia- Well, there are lots of trails here that aren't marked well, but we are trying hard to keep this one blazed!

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