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  1. #1
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    Default Why trail maintenance?

    I'm trying to figure out why people do all the extra work on the trail. I understand that some people want to "give back to the trail". But why? I'm not trying to start an arguement. Just tring to understand. Wouldn't the trail be alright without the water bars. Maybe a few more rocks to walk on because of the washed away dirt but wouldn't the trail still be o.k. just like a dirt road?
    And the blown down trees, couldn't a new trail be started by the hikers going around the tree. Why not just leave the tree where it fell and go around.

    What made me think of this is Roan MT. Is the work being done for the people staying at the campground and lodge? Is it for the business people who spent the day at the conference center so they can walk up to the top of the bald with their loafers on?
    Work was done a few years ago to ease the grade and I guess to stop errosion. Now when you go up there you have to be carefull so you don't trip over the carpet type stuff they put down. And who pays for that ugly stuff? They also say its for errosion perposes. I don't understand this either. The reason is because you can't tell where the trail was before. So I don't see the problem they were trying to fix.
    And they say it is to make the grade flatter. Why? These are the mountains. If I want flat graded trails couldn't I just go walk at the beach or the mall?

    Like I stated before, I don't want to start a fight with maintainers, I just don't understand all the extra work that has to be kept up with.

  2. #2
    Registered User Rentman's Avatar
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    You've been drinkin.................
    Ok let's say ya stop doing maintenance on your truck, being that it's a GMC it wouldn't take long before you would be stranded on the side of the road. Same with the Trail, if it wasn't maintained it would be a real mess IMO...................

  3. #3
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    I guess I don't understand what would become a mess. Some of our local trails haven't been fixed in years [except the blow downs] and they are still fine.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rentman View Post
    Same with the Trail, if it wasn't maintained it would be a real mess IMO...................
    not really. the northern LT sees very little maintenance. real trail for real hikers

  5. #5
    Registered User jrnj5k's Avatar
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    The trails are maintained so that the average person can enjoy them. Most people dont want to walk around trees into the woods a bit. I agree with you though just so you know....

  6. #6

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    Roan Mtn gets an incredible amount of foot traffic each year, far more than your local trail. Without maintenance, those trails would be an eroded mess in no time.

    Now these HUGE shelters that are all the rage lately....

  7. #7
    Fat Guy Lemni Skate's Avatar
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    I think it simply depends on the amount of traffic and the area the trail is in.

    I've definitely seen trails that needed some things done to them. I've seen trails disappear and I've seen them turn into creeks. I've seen other trails that once built, probably weren't going to disappear in a few hundred years.

    Don't forget that some people enjoy maintaining at trail. I for one, hate walking around blow downs in Virginia as that usually means poison ivy, briars and ticks and other things. I also can't stand slogging through endless mud.
    Lemni Skate away

    The trail will save my life

  8. #8
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    Why do I do it? I put in the time because I enjoy being outdoors and playing in the dirt. There is also a sense of satisfaction an accomplishment when you get finished with a project. I like doing rock work. Building steps, removing trip hazards, building cribbing.

    There are some aspects of trail maintenance that are not so much fun, at least for me, but come with being a maintainer. For example, I dont really like whacking weeds and briars from the trail, nor do I like hauling out other people's trash.

    And then there is the other big advantage that I get..... It qualifies for tax deductions. Example.. a few years ago, I was hiking in Colorado and came across a crew working on the CDT. I spent 5 days helping them build trail. By doing so, I was able to claim airfare, rental car, hotel stay, and mileage on my taxes as deductions. I did not go out there with that intent, but it sure was a nice break in my hike and an unexpected bonus when I got my tax refund the next spring.... which I promptly used to book a flight for that summer's hiking trip.

    Then there is the old addage.. what goes around, comes around. Doing something just because it needs to be done leads to good karma. And we can all use more of that.

    As for whether the trail would still be there if nobody maintained it... try to hike places like the smokies or the whites where there are no trails. Some may find it fun to bushwhack, but most would not. It doesnt take long for nature to reclaim a trail in some areas if left unattended. Other areas (like above treeline), it might take decades, or centuries before all traces of the trail are gone.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by dmax View Post
    I'm trying to figure out why people do all the extra work on the trail. I understand that some people want to "give back to the trail". But why? I'm not trying to start an arguement. Just tring to understand. Wouldn't the trail be alright without the water bars. Maybe a few more rocks to walk on because of the washed away dirt but wouldn't the trail still be o.k. just like a dirt road?
    And the blown down trees, couldn't a new trail be started by the hikers going around the tree. Why not just leave the tree where it fell and go around.

    What made me think of this is Roan MT. Is the work being done for the people staying at the campground and lodge? Is it for the business people who spent the day at the conference center so they can walk up to the top of the bald with their loafers on?
    Work was done a few years ago to ease the grade and I guess to stop errosion. Now when you go up there you have to be carefull so you don't trip over the carpet type stuff they put down. And who pays for that ugly stuff? They also say its for errosion perposes. I don't understand this either. The reason is because you can't tell where the trail was before. So I don't see the problem they were trying to fix.
    And they say it is to make the grade flatter. Why? These are the mountains. If I want flat graded trails couldn't I just go walk at the beach or the mall?

    Like I stated before, I don't want to start a fight with maintainers, I just don't understand all the extra work that has to be kept up with.
    I'm doing a trail maintenance trip July 11 in the Cherokee NF near Tellico Plains. Join me, and by the end of the day, all your questions will be answered.
    'All my lies are always wishes" ~Jeff Tweedy~

  10. #10
    Registered User Summit's Avatar
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    I'm thankful for all the trail maintainers and maintenance that is done. I believe in keeping things as natural as possible, but I remember hiking in NC and S. Virginia in the '70s and plowing mile after mile through overgrown sticker bushes choking the trail in places. Haven't seen that in a long time and very glad for it!

    There are places where a blow down detour poses no problem and those usually are left to be, but there are steep, confined places where a blow down creates an unpleasant situation. I don't care much for getting down on my hands and knees in the mud to crawl under a good size tree. I love it when a crew with chain saws fixes that!

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rentman View Post
    You've been drinkin.................
    Ok let's say ya stop doing maintenance on your truck, being that it's a GMC it wouldn't take long before you would be stranded on the side of the road. Same with the Trail, if it wasn't maintained it would be a real mess IMO...................
    GMC= (G)ota (M)echanic (C)omin

  12. #12
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    It's funny how naive people can be when they think you can just let a trail go unmaintained and have it be managable to hike on. Sections on West Baldpate have had to be re-routed because of the lack of maintenance on the waterbars. (They are on year 6 with probably 10 more years to go) A stream literally flows down the trail now. The erosion created by water flowing down the trail has sunk the trail down several feet. If people went around every blowdown there would be so many little side trails it would be ridiculous. Most of the work you see done on the trail is volunteer work from people like me. Lots of work goes into maintaining a trail, but even more work has to be put in if it ends up grown in or turns into a stream.
    "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." ~ Winston Churchill

  13. #13
    Registered User Tennessee Viking's Avatar
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    I can see where dmax is coming from. Why should trails be easy enough for the ignorant tourist hiker come and walk on it, crowd it up, and trash it.

    Not only do I do maintenance to give back, it can be a great social event and a chance to build muscles & learn some skills. Hardcore & the ATC crews are some of the best social reasons for maintenance. SCA crews learn skills and such.

    For the point on the grade and anti-errosion techniques, you can look to the government and ATC. They set standards every so often on how steep of a grade trails can be for national trails. Back when the first trail systems were started, the easiest and quickest way to build trail was to build them straight up and over. After decades of rain, snow, and foot traffic these trails became erroded. So the standards are set that national trails have to meet certain standards for grade and errosion, so trails are now being routed to hillside with easier grades. And in some areas, it only takes one year of neglect before weeds and brush grow over the trail.

    I think that forest service trails can get away with this is because if a trail becomes so walkable or erroded, they just close it down and let it grow back in.
    ''Tennessee Viking'
    Mountains to Sea Trail Maintainer
    Former TEHCC (AT) Maintainer
    Falls Lake Trail: 2011

  14. #14
    Registered User Rentman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tennessee Viking View Post
    I can see where dmax is coming from. Why should trails be easy enough for the ignorant tourist hiker come and walk on it, crowd it up, and trash it.

    Not only do I do maintenance to give back, it can be a great social event and a chance to build muscles & learn some skills. Hardcore & the ATC crews are some of the best social reasons for maintenance. SCA crews learn skills and such.

    For the point on the grade and anti-errosion techniques, you can look to the government and ATC. They set standards every so often on how steep of a grade trails can be for national trails. Back when the first trail systems were started, the easiest and quickest way to build trail was to build them straight up and over. After decades of rain, snow, and foot traffic these trails became erroded. So the standards are set that national trails have to meet certain standards for grade and errosion, so trails are now being routed to hillside with easier grades. And in some areas, it only takes one year of neglect before weeds and brush grow over the trail.

    I think that forest service trails can get away with this is because if a trail becomes so walkable or erroded, they just close it down and let it grow back in.
    Hey TV, Me and DMAX will be passing ya by this weekend when we are hiking, just hand him a shovel and sling and he will soon get the picture. Hell we just might stop for awhile and lend a hand..............

  15. #15
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    No, you have no idea where I'm coming from. And I don't think tourist are ignorant. Do you?

    If you say something like certain areas of trail wiil errode after 25 years of neglect and will sink 3 feet, I can deal with that and understand. But I don't mind walking down a trail when its raining and having a steam come down it. Its raining.

    I also didn't know the gov sets standards.

  16. #16
    Registered User shelterbuilder's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dmax View Post
    No, you have no idea where I'm coming from. And I don't think tourist are ignorant. Do you?

    If you say something like certain areas of trail wiil erode after 25 years of neglect and will sink 3 feet, I can deal with that and understand. But I don't mind walking down a trail when its raining and having a steam come down it. Its raining.

    I also didn't know the gov sets standards.
    Actually, if a stream is coming down the trail, it'll erode in substantially less than 25 years. But waterbars (to divert the flow off of the footpath) or rock steps on really steep sections will stop this from happening.

    I'm no expert on rockwork - I need constant supervision - but it does give me a warm, fuzzy feeling when I return to an area where I've done some work and see how it improves the footpath. And as for "regular" trail maintenence - if blowdowns were never removed and brush never cut, the trail would soon disappear, and I, for one, don't really want to go bushwhacking when I hike the AT.

    Just sayin'....
    Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass - it's about learning how to dance in the rain!

  17. #17
    Registered User Dances with Mice's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dmax View Post
    I'm trying to figure out why people do all the extra work on the trail.
    Because chicks dig it.
    You never turned around to see the frowns
    On the jugglers and the clowns
    When they all did tricks for you.

  18. #18

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    A steep trail without proper erosion-prevention devices will become gullied. As the soil wears away, small loose pebbles will line the sloped treadway, then larger loose stones that make for unpleasant and increasingly hazardous hiking conditions. Eventually that section will have to be abandoned and rerouted, or a huge amount of manpower (and skill) will be required to rehabilitate it (adding check dams or steps).

    Laurie P.
    ATC

  19. #19
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    Thanks Lauriep,... As I first stated in my original post...I'm trying to figure out and I don't understand. It is an answer like this that helps.

  20. #20

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    Ask anybody that hikes through trail after an ice storm or after the remnants of a hurricane came through if they appreciate trail maintenance?

    dmax - As for the balds and the geotextile that is under the footpath... That is there to keep the rock in place which in turn keeps the trail from becoming a ditch. Walk up the side trail to Grassy Ridge and you see what happens when the geotextile and gravel isn't there. We (TEHCC) have plenty of opportunities for you to come out and work instead of lolly gagging on the weekends. It would do you some good to spend some time with some our maintainers that have thousands of hours of service.
    Cabin Fever
    You need God—to hope, to care, to love, to live.

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