Trail Blazing, Trail Stewardship

A properly applied trail blaze along the Artist's Bluff Path in  White Mountains, New Hampshire.
Proper Trail Blaze – Artist's Bluff Path, New Hampshire
 

Trail Blazing, Trail Stewardship – I have been hearing more and more complaints about trail blazing along the White Mountains trail system. Either the trail is excessively blazed or not blazed enough. Personally, I don’t mind the trails that have little trail blazing. But I am not a fan of the excessive trail blazing. Over the years I have photographed different types of blazing styles and today I going to share a few of them with you.

Proper trail blazing protocol seems to vary among the trail maintenance organizations, but the ending result is the same. And most of these organizations agree that a standard trail blaze is a two inch by six inch rectangle placed about head height on trees. No painting of arrows, only a single vertical blaze, should be painted on a tree. For more information on blazing see the Randolph Mountain Club’s trail blazing protocol page.

Yellow trail blaze along a trail at the Warren Town Forest in Warren, New Hampshire during the summer months. The double blaze indicates a change in direction of the trail.
Two Blaze Combination – Warren Town Forest, New Hampshire
 

There are exceptions to the single blaze rule, such as using a two blaze combination (above) to indicate the trail changes direction. Explaining the different meanings of trail blazes would require a blog article dedicated to this subject. So if you are interested in learning more about the meanings of trail blazes, click here.

Trail Blaze along the Frankenstein Cliff Trail in the White Mountains, New Hampshire.
Frankenstein Cliff Trail – Hart's Location, New Hampshire
 

Trail blazing plays an important role in trail stewardship but when it gets to the point where it is aesthetically ugly it is no longer acceptable stewardship. And I can understand the point of view of those outdoor enthusiasts who say trail blazes painted on trees takes away from the outdoor experience.

September 2011 - Trail blaze along the Mt Tecumseh Trail, at a brook crossing, in the New Hampshire White Mountains. Proper technique is two paint marks (on right) to indicate the trail turns right. After a trail inspection by Forest Service in June 2012, the non-conforming blazing was removed by proper parties.
Mt Tecumseh Trail – Waterville Valley, New Hampshire
 

Here is the problem, much of the trail blazing along the White Mountains trail system is done by volunteers. And most of the volunteers working the trail system have good intentions. So when outdoor enthusiasts complain about excessive trail blazing on a trail, it is possible a volunteer did it. However, for the most part, volunteers are trained on basic trail blazing protocol. And this raises the question of accountability. Should volunteers be held accountable when they don't follow proper protocol?

Blue trail blazing painted on trees along Maggie's Run Trail in Crawford Notch State Park of New Hampshire.
Maggie's Run Trail – Hart's Location, New Hampshire
 

Without volunteers, the White Mountains trail system would be in turmoil. And the ones who do donate two or three days a year to better the trail system deserve praise. But with that being said, trail blazing is an art form, and not everyone should be playing with paint in nature. I wonder if having a trail crew dedicated to doing just trail blazing would create a more uniform and acceptable blazing system throughout the White Mountains.

To license any of the above images for usage in publications, click on the image. And you can view more trail blaze photos here.

Happy image making..


 

Connect with us on Facebook | Subscribe to our blog | See our New Hampshire wall calendars

The following two tabs change content below.
Erin Paul is a professional photographer who specializes in the environment and historic preservation of New Hampshire. His work is published worldwide, and credits include; Backpacker Magazine, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and The Wilderness Society. His blog articles are intended to create awareness for historic preservation and land conservation.

Latest posts by Erin Paul Donovan (see all)

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>