Through all seasons, hikers can only rely on two things, a good map and good trails. Let's take a moment to thank all the volunteers (because let's be honest, it's mostly volunteers) who maintain the trails, blaze them and create maps.
From the NY NJ Conference who maintain and map thousands of miles of trails, to Acadia park's intricate and dangerous off the cliff iron rods, and Mount Washington's cairns, we could not enjoy nature without all the hard work of the volunteers.
You easily take what they do for granted (of course there is to be blazing!) but just imagine what they are going through!
NY NJ Trail Conference
Most trails you enjoy in the Tri state area are maintained by the NY NJ Trail Conference. So close to the city, the usage is high - Breakneck ridge is used by 100,000 people a year, up to 1,426 in a single day! The WSJ outlined the trickiness of building the right path, while paying homage to the unsung heroes that make hikes possible in their A Trail Designer’s Job: Get Inside Hikers’ Minds article. It reminds us that trails are blazed (those little circle affixed to the trees) for a reason; to make sure we don't get lost, but also to protect nature. By the way, ever wondered why those blazes were not nailed tight to the bark of the tree? They are planned for many years, and the tree will grow and expand - so never push the nail deeper!
On your next hike, do your part and follow those tips. Most importantly, walking off trail or taking short cuts may look cool but it widens the path, destroying plants and creating erosion.
Crisscrossed by the carriage path laid by John Rockefeller, the trails defined by George Dorr, Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island offers something for every level of fitness.
One of the most intricate trail grid of the National parks, Acadia is in constant need for upgrade and maintenance. Imagine, it takes 14,000 hours of labor to repair one trail according to the New York Times article Restoring Acadia’s Trails. Otherwise, Nature will take back the space in no time.
Precipice and Beehive trails remind you that you are just a guest in nature's world. This is an insane hike (not sure why we call it a hike) that takes you up the hill using iron rods. Check out James Kaiser, Acadia Park guide book writer and explorer, picture and you will see what we mean.
The trail follows the hill side, using iron ladders and rods. It takes you around the edge, to the border of the cliff, up the iron steps. Someone had to be motivated to blaze that one, but also to create it.
If there is one trail you need to trust the maintenance crew, it's this one. Even though not technically a climb (they say so at the bottom), you wonder if the climbing gear wouldn't be a good idea.
Any hike toward Mount Washington starts with an informative panel indicating the number of people who died on the mountain, and how it happened. If that is not a reminder of how dangerous this climb is (not so much its technicality as its unpredictable weather), not sure what will.
To help you in this quest to the submit, above tree lines are the Zen-like reassuring cairns (slide show). At this altitude, no sign would stand, with this weather and wind, no paint would remain. Acadia uses them as well, called Bates Cairns of a simple structure, using less rocks. Mt Washington, and the White Mountains use piles of rocks readily available.
While you hike, they create a safe line, that you see unveiling on the horizon, like friendly ghosts waiting for you to join. Even when the fog settles, and it does in no time an no warning, the split second of scare turns into renewed hope when you see the next cairn.
One may think "it's just a pile of rock", but it can take up to one day to create a single one; from selecting the right rocks, to making sure the displacement won't create permanent soil damage, it takes precise planning. Thank you to the AMC volunteers.
On your next hike, take a moment to appreciate the work done on trail maintenance and remember.
Trails, you shall not step out of.
Cairns, you shall not create or move.
Volunteers, you shall thank.
Nature, you shall enjoy while hiking.