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[nct-l] west MI thoughts

My partner and I went for a ramble on the Lowell section of the NCT today
to make up for the fact that we missed the mass parade on Trails Day.  As
is often the case, as I walked this section I got to thinking about trail
building strategies.

A couple of things came to mind that I thought I would share with this
list.  First, I am very proud of my fellow club members, especially Paula
and Doug Wilbur, for their work on this section.  It is a beautiful piece
of trail.  We saw wild turkey, a nesting turtle, a profusion of wild
flowers (the patches of purple phlox were amazing!), and a nice variety of
song birds.

But we also found a high-impact campfire right on the trail, complete with
car tire tracks, a soiled t-shirt and nearly a dozen Bud and Bud Light beer
cans within throwing distance of the fire pit (why is it that slobs usually
drink Anheuser-Busch products?).  It was a real shame, but something I
think can be easily solved by the hiking community.

You see, the slobatorium was located on the only small section of the NCT
in the Lowell State Game Area where the trail follows an old two-track.  So
Julie and I scattered the fire scar, covered its remains with duff, and
picked up the beer cans and assorted dreck.  Then we talked about how the
trail could easily avoid the two-track.

Why is it that we in Michigan (and elsewhere?) often chose to follow
two-tracks with the NCT, even when on public lands like state game areas?
Doesn't this just welcome trouble (and slobs) to our trail?  Why would we
want to be affiliated with all the problems that two-tracks entail (illegal
dumping, Anheuser-Busch slobs, illicit behavior, paint ball, target
practice, deer entrails, snowmobiles, ORVs, etc.--activities prohibited in
state game areas, but widely practiced)?

This is not to mention that two-tracks typically do not make for
sustainable trail given their low footpath, compacted soil, and drainage

Just this past April I joined more than a dozen volunteers with the Western
Michigan Chapter as we spent a morning barricading sections of our trail in
the Rogue River State Game Area that follow old two-tracks.  I heard from a
hiker recently that many of our barricades were already dismantled and that
the ORVs are freely roaming our footpath.

I wonder how much the DNR ascribes these headaches incorrectly to the
presence of the trail.  I can see people believing that it is the trail
(and not the two-tracks) that attract the slobs.  Yet I rarely see such
problems of this magnitude on our sections of trail that are 18-24' wide.
Perhaps a rogue bike rider, but nary the problems I see on old two-tracks.

Would it be prudent to spend the effort to get our trail off of these old
two-tracks?  I know in the Lowell State Game Area it would only be a small
relo.  In the Rogue it would take significant work (but I suggest it would
also greatly improve the hiking experience there!).  And I'm sure there are
opportunities for improvement elsewhere.

What do you think?  Is it worth the effort to move the NCT off of the
two-tracks?  Would it improve the hiking experience?  What, other than
labor, might be the obstacles?  Are there other obtacles of which I am

I'd be interested in your thoughts, as I think these are critical issues as
our clubs complete the NCT trail building on public lands and move towards
seeking easements across private lands.  I think those who neighbor these
public lands will look to them as a model of what trail on private land
will be.  And I'm not so sure we've put our best foot forward yet.

WMI Chapter

ps- Hey Tate, you been to the PA Headquarters lately?