About this time each year, many people are looking forward to bare ground and sunshine. This is especially true of our trail maintainers.
Some years we’ve tried to hurry the season a little, only to find some back roads either still snow-covered (no winter maintenance), or worse yet ice-covered. So we’ve learned to try to stick with about April to begin our “Spring Around The Trail.”
This is the time when all section maintainers are urged to get out and check their sections. They usually plan to do some preliminary clearing, and report on anything that they may need some help with. There are no set rules to this schedule — sometimes the weather cooperates earlier, and sometimes later.
And speaking of later, of course then we have a “mud” season, a time when the roads are thawing and drying — after that happens it’s pretty decent traveling.
In 2020, our maintainers collectively put in 3,023 hours, which is quite amazing — knowing that they were quite safe from the virus, probably many decided they would rather be out there doing something than cooped up somewhere.
Also, there seemed to be an abundance of hikers, so it seemed to be a win-win. I sort of doubt we’ll match that number of hours this year, but then there’s always lots of trail care to do. We don’t like to admit it but it’s a never-ending chore.
In fact one of our maintainers has given us a universal motto — “After clearing a section, and as I was getting into my vehicle, I think I heard a tree fall.” There’s some truth in that — of course every tree that falls is not on our trail, but enough of them are to keep us busy.
Our go-to tool is usually the chainsaw, followed by the brushcutters, weedwhackers and loppers, not necessarily in that order. Later on we can mow many sections, renew the blazing, replace some posts and signs, maybe put a log across a stream — like I say never-ending. But there’s no place else we’d rather be, so we’re not complaining.
If all goes well, we hope to put up two trail shelters this year. On the one planned for last year, a short section of woods road needs to be improved enough so we can get our trailer-load of materials to the site. That will require waiting until things dry up somewhat.
In the meantime, we located and marked another site, which was approved. That site may turn out to be the first shelter we erect.
I’ve mentioned before that when we first began thinking about trail shelters, we checked with some outfits that build them. Of course, we wanted the “Adirondack” style of open-fronted lean-to. One company said they could put up one for us for about $8,000.
Well, that was pretty much a non-starter with our budget. So we began planning one which might be more affordable, and came up with a cost of $1,000 or less.
And we knew we had people who could handle this type of building. And so far we have been quite successful at it, with three completed plus the re-purposing of an old CCC dynamite magazine. Seems like most of the time we’ve come in “on time and under budget.”
We’ve had great crews and great times doing them. And if the trail Gods smile on us, we have a couple more long stretches which could use a shelter, so the future is looking good.
So make sure you don’t miss out, and come along sometime. Hear that sound? Silence — that’s the trail calling. Stay safe.