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  1. #1
    Registered User GGS2's Avatar
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    Default Trail Maintenance As You Go

    This is for general discussion, but I'd like to hear from maintainers and maintenance leaders. When I hike, I often (not always) do a pick-up as I go. When there is a big haul, and I am carrying a backpack already, I won't carry it all, but I like to give back at least a little bit by doing cleanup as I go. I drop it off at the nearest trail-head garbage can.

    What other routine maintenance can be done by hikers as they go? What should they leave to the supervised crews? We often come across blow-downs. I've never carried a saw to cut them, or tried to shift the big ones. Would anyone try that alone? Some are in use as trail blocks against vehicles of course, but these are easy to recognize. Also, there are often critical blazes missing at trail junctions and road crossings. Should/could anyone who knows the route replace such blazes?

  2. #2
    Registered User Speer Carrier's Avatar
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    Other than kicking small branches of the trail or a small rock, its probably best to contact the local trail club and let them know what you observed, and what might need to be done. Blazes are pretty well planned. Don't arbitrarily add some. Large blow downs can be dangerous to try to handle alone. Cutting up blow downs is usually done by maintainers who have had saw certification classes.

  3. #3

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    generally speaking its my opinion that its best to have a separate hike for trail maintenance if one wants to do anything significant. wrt to blazes and treadway work - its probably best to leave that to the maintaining club. wrt blowdowns - a lot of blowdown work can be handled with a simple pruning saw and with some knowledge / experience is very safe work to do (ex cut a spring pole at the base first or be real careful to stay out its way when it is cut loose) - key item with doing blowdowns is to tell the club where you have removed one so that they don't waste effort sending someone out after one you have already done - another key item is to don't use a chainsaw or these days a crosscut saw without getting certified and having a partner and the appropriate protective gear

  4. #4
    First Sergeant SGT Rock's Avatar
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    I agree. Ig you are going to hike my section, kicking some branches out and taking out trash is about all you should try to do. Anything over and above that takes time and tools, plus there is always that off chance someone could do something not actually allowed in my section. I've got about 1.9 miles that blazing is not allowed in and you cannot add man made structures, so if someone wanted to dig in and add a privy because they got tired of digging a cathole everytime they walk through it would be a bad thing. Now if you knew my section you know that there is actually an off chance some regular local might actually do this.
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  5. #5
    Registered User shelterbuilder's Avatar
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    I agree with Speer Carrier - contact the local maintaining club with the information - or, better yet, join one near where you live, if this is practical.

    IN GENERAL, if there's a blowdown that's small enough to step over, don't worry about it, but branches can be removed from the footpath if it's not too troublesome. I carry a staff (not hiking poles), and I've found this to be a useful two-handed tool for lifting most branches out of the way.

    I've mentioned it before, but I will sometimes leave larger blowdowns (either on the ground, or at chest-height) to discourage ATVs or horses in areas where I know these are a problem. Blazing can be a touchy subject - how many are too many (or too few)? We've had scout troops that have meant well enough, but have contacted us AFTER the fact, telling us that they've re-blazed a section, only to find that they've painted blazes every 50 feet!

  6. #6
    mountain squid's Avatar
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    As Speer Carrier mentioned, contact the local maintaining club. Otherwise, some easy things to do might include:

    - removing small branches from the trail
    - clearing water bars of leaves, etc
    - when the footpath leads in a direction other than the AT, place small branches, etc in the path to prevent others from making the same mistake
    - packing out trash
    - cleaning leaves out of springs

    If you notice larger blowdowns or missing blazes or a problem with a shelter, or anything that will require club attention, make a note as to the general location and report it to the local maintaining club. Be as specific as possible. It is easy to wander on the trail and not find the discrepancy that had been reported.

    While dayhiking, I usually carry a small 'pruning' saw to remove small blowdowns and other branches that might have strayed onto the trail.

    Definitely be careful out there...

    See you on the trail,
    mt squid

  7. #7

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    Last summer, on the old AT going N from Inn at Long Trail, I threw some downed branches and kicked some leaves on a part of the trail without blazes (a straight uphill shortcut). The blazes were visible on the trees, and there was a well-worn footpath, but folks just put their heads down and chugged straight up the hill, apparantly.
    I've also stabilized stone steps if they wobbled when I stepped on them and I have made some makeshift arrows with sticks to indicate privy locations near shelters. I haven't done any real maintenance in years, and have resolved to start again this year, locally, and maybe on the AT in Mass.
    As I live, declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn back from his way and live. Ezekiel 33:11

  8. #8

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    Knock branches out of the way and open up water drainage troughs with hiking poles.

  9. #9

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    We've had the scouts carry garbage bags on hikes and reward the patrol that picked up the most trash.

  10. #10
    As in "dessert" not "desert"
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    I think people who complain about maintenance (like MS) should have to bring along either a big saw for cutting trees that block the trail, or some white paint and a stencil for making clearer blazes.

  11. #11
    As in "dessert" not "desert"
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tinker View Post
    I have made some makeshift arrows with sticks to indicate privy locations near shelters.
    That actually is a problem sometimes. I remember being extremely annoyed a couple of times at having no idea where to find the privy. At one of those places, someone had written it in pen on the hiker box ("the privy is up the hill to the right, etc.") which shows it had been a problem for others.

  12. #12
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    No matter where I hike, in the Catskills or Berkshires or on the AT, I will do casual trail maintenance as I go, tossing off small branches.
    I don't think that there's a maintainer out there who wouldn't appreciate this.

    Bur saw work should be left to the maintainer. If there is no maintainer, contact the next authority.
    I maintain a section that includes the top of Mt. Race and Mt. Everett in Massachusetts. This is dwarf pitch pine territory, a protected species. I know enough to leave the pitch pine alone, unless it is dead or blocking the trail.
    I'd get very upset if some unauthorized person decided to cut pitch pine to widen the trail.

  13. #13
    Registered User Tennessee Viking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GGS2 View Post
    This is for general discussion, but I'd like to hear from maintainers and maintenance leaders. When I hike, I often (not always) do a pick-up as I go. When there is a big haul, and I am carrying a backpack already, I won't carry it all, but I like to give back at least a little bit by doing cleanup as I go. I drop it off at the nearest trail-head garbage can.

    What other routine maintenance can be done by hikers as they go? What should they leave to the supervised crews? We often come across blow-downs. I've never carried a saw to cut them, or tried to shift the big ones. Would anyone try that alone? Some are in use as trail blocks against vehicles of course, but these are easy to recognize. Also, there are often critical blazes missing at trail junctions and road crossings. Should/could anyone who knows the route replace such blazes?
    Generally, we in the TN Eastman Hiking Club we only ask hikers to report problems or make comments at hostels (like Kincora with Bob since he is a club member) or if we catch them on trail. We usually have our members patrol our section on a weekly or so basis.

    If a blowdown is manageable with a handsaw or if there is small amounts of trash to pick up, then go for it. And if there is trash around a shelter and have time, just to organize it or burn it in the firepit. And to write up any shelter concerns in the registry. But generally we want hikers to make their mileage and time for their hikes.

    Then usually at Kincora, the Peoples will ask hikers if they want to volunteer on maintenance outings. Get a patch out of it.
    Then trail days Hardcore event, everyone gets a free dinner.
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  14. #14

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    Hey Tinker, I'll send you our list of trail projects in Mass this summer. We'd be glad to have your help!

    As a maintainer (VT/Mass border south to bad weather bypass blue blaze), I certainly appreciate hikers clearing small branches and similar stuff. Cleaning out an occasional waterbar with your heel or hiking stick would also be great.

    However, leave the blazing brush cutting and major work to me, please. DO report any blowdowns, navigation problems or sloppy readway. Most clubs have an easy to find website these days.

    Someone has made some VERY sloppy blazes near the AT junction with the Pine Cobble Trail and I'm NOT happy about it. It will take years for those blazes to weather off.

    Cosmo


    Quote Originally Posted by Tinker View Post
    Last summer, on the old AT going N from Inn at Long Trail, I threw some downed branches and kicked some leaves on a part of the trail without blazes (a straight uphill shortcut). The blazes were visible on the trees, and there was a well-worn footpath, but folks just put their heads down and chugged straight up the hill, apparantly.
    I've also stabilized stone steps if they wobbled when I stepped on them and I have made some makeshift arrows with sticks to indicate privy locations near shelters. I haven't done any real maintenance in years, and have resolved to start again this year, locally, and maybe on the AT in Mass.

  15. #15
    Registered User shelterbuilder's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cosmo View Post
    ...Someone has made some VERY sloppy blazes near the AT junction with the Pine Cobble Trail and I'm NOT happy about it. It will take years for those blazes to weather off.

    Cosmo
    Cosmo, have you considered using a paint scraper and scraping the bad blazes down and re-doing them? Most times, you don't need to scrape down to the tree's living layer to get rid of enough of the blaze to be able to re-do it. (Or, paint them out with bark-matching paint!)

  16. #16

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    shelter builder,
    Unfortunately, some of the blazes are on rocks, totally unnecessary in this location as there are plenty of trees and a well defined footpath (arrgh!). If I scrape them off, there will be a blaze-shaped light spot on the rock.

    For trees, if they have thick enough bark, I can scrape a bit and touch up the blaze. If they are thin-barked like beech, I think it's better to just leave it to weather on its own. I have tried to paint out some blazes, but that just leaves a different colored blaze--hard to match colors and textures. Besides, when the masking paint wears off, I'm still stuck with a blaze in the wrong place...

    Cosmo

    --------------------------
    “Just because we’ve ruined 90 percent of everything doesn’t mean we can’t do wonderful things with the remaining ten percent.”
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  17. #17

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    I keep a grocery bag in my daypack or camera pouch: handy for litter, folds small, light weight.

  18. #18
    Formerly thickredhair Gaiter's Avatar
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    just reading the 'burning trash' thread, i thought i would mention on this thread: another place to look for trash to pack out is the fire pits, burnt and un-burnt
    Gaiter
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cosmo View Post
    shelter builder,
    Unfortunately, some of the blazes are on rocks, totally unnecessary in this location as there are plenty of trees and a well defined footpath (arrgh!). If I scrape them off, there will be a blaze-shaped light spot on the rock.

    For trees, if they have thick enough bark, I can scrape a bit and touch up the blaze. If they are thin-barked like beech, I think it's better to just leave it to weather on its own. I have tried to paint out some blazes, but that just leaves a different colored blaze--hard to match colors and textures. Besides, when the masking paint wears off, I'm still stuck with a blaze in the wrong place...
    I agree - what I tell folks is that blazing is ALMOST as easy as it looks and I'm very reluctant to let a new volunteer blaze alone. (VERY willing to have them go out with a known good volunteer, it's a two person task for initial marking which I'm having folks do a lot of...) Blazing done wrong is just about the hardest volunteer trail task to fix. One might have to cut trees down in order to fix it...

  20. #20
    Registered User GGS2's Avatar
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    I've seen a lot of blaze correction, but that's not what bugs me most. It's the missing or confusing ones at a bend or a junction, especially at a road walk, where there are often so few blazes that it is difficult to tell if you are on the trail or not. Of course, if you have and up-to-date trail guide or map, this is less of a problem. Blazes are often placed on the biggest old tree around, which means that blaze is invisible (missing) if the tree goes down in a storm. If it's a double blaze, that means trouble for a new trail walker, unless the tread is unmistakable, which it often isn't.

    The other responses have been about what I expected, except a few more votes for minor lopping and such than I expected. I wonder if camera carriers might take clear pictures of the offending trail defect (missing blaze tree, blowdown, puddle or braided trail, cut switchbak or mudslide after rain, etc.) and send them to the local maintenance chief?

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