Along the Natchez Trace

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Trail Maintenance

Of all the things to do here at this refuge, my favorite job is trail maintenance.  There are over about 10  miles of trails in all....  the main 2,500 acres, where the refuge headquarters/visitor center/nature store is has over 3 miles of trails currently in use, and the Chapman Lake area, just a couple miles away has 7 trails (some connecting) that consist of 6 miles.    There are new trails under construction - another project this summer.

During the winter months some of these trails are used for cross-country skiing... snow mobiles are not permitted in the refuge.  The winter weather takes its toll on the trails...  so one of the first things I do is take the Gator over every trail to clear fallen trees or remove other debris that would damage the mower.
 Geared up and ready to go...
Steel-toed boots, Hard Hat and Ear Protection.  What a fashion statement!...  the safety goggles got left off for this photo.
Actually, I'm on the mower here...  the sequence of these photos may not be in order.  The gator has a bed where I carry loppers, a bow saw and whatever I think I'll need.  
 The trails wind through woods...  no mowing needed here, except along the edges....
 Of course I have to stop and investigate what's going on along the trails.  These tiny lady slippers have the longest stems!  Guess the lady has tiny feet but long legs....  and what a beauty!
 There are lots of interpretative signs along the trails.  Sometimes they need some work, but mostly they just need wiped down...  clean off bird droppings and other crud.
 Some of the trails lead through grassy areas.
This particular trail is the old railroad bed....  when this was an Air Force base, this spur brought bombs and bomb components into the facility.

 What's this?
How did this tree get scraped 8' or more high? I think I've written that this area got a total of over 10' of snow last winter.  Porcupines still wander around during the winter...  on top of the snow.  They'll strip the bark off these trees for food.  Looks kind of odd after the snow melts, doesn't it?
 The trails wander past several ponds....  these ponds were created by beavers.  After a few years the flooded area kills the remaining trees, so the ponds look kind of desolate.
But the beaver have created a habitat for other wildlife...
This black duck with her two ducklings are some of the many critters that love the water.

 Because of the ear protection, I really don't have much opportunity to hear what's going on around me.  But I think my eyes work even more.  Seeing the new growth on the spruce trees shows lovely patterns of the old and the new.
 This dead branch has 3 kinds of lichen on it.  
My favorite lichen are the "British Soldiers".  They'll be showing their red coats soon.

Wildflowers and shrubs bloom in profusion!
Bunchberries cover the forest floor....  lupines are all along the roadside and in the fields.  Yellow, purples, whites, pinks...  the Veronica's bluest of blue is lovely.

While doing my "reconnaissance" run on the Gator, I remove fallen limbs and use the bow saw on the smaller trees.  I lop off overhanging branches and trim shrubs that encroach on the trail.  When I get back to the maintenance building, I tell Bill where the ones are that are too big for me to deal with.
While Bill is certified to use a chainsaw on the refuge, his preferred method is to cut even the big stuff with a bow saw.  Notice the bug net he has over his head.  The black flies and mosquitoes have been particularly bad this week.  

I seldom see any big critters - I think the mower and Gator are so loud that you can hear me coming quite a way off.  Sometimes I see Snowshoe Hare, squirrels, mink or weasels as they scurry across my path.

We all wear a lot of hats when volunteering at such an understaffed refuge, but my hardhat is my favorite...
keeping the trails in good shape is my idea of a good time.

That's All For Today!


  1. Trail checking is my favorite 'chore' too! Wish I had a gater though.

  2. Yay for lady slippers. I found a small stand, hope to transplant a few to the garden.

  3. You are full of knowledge of flowers, trees, birds, even lichens. I love reading your posts and adventuring through you. Thank you.

  4. Now thats sounds like really great jon, I could get into that , except for the bugs.

  5. Sharon, when you finish up your trail clearing up there in Maine, you are welcome to come down to PA and clear the road to our cabin in the woods. We have to drive about 1 1/2 miles on forest roads and the private road to the cabin in the motorhome and I have to clear the brush, branches, overhangs, etc each year. None of the other residents see any need to help except for one great neighbor. I can barely keep up with the work each summer and it gets more difficult each year.

    We also have bears in the area, but no moose.

    Have fun up there in the far north.

  6. That's a lot of work! They sure are lucky to have you and Bill! :)

  7. You and Judy and your trail maintenance. I truly did not appreciate all the hard work you guys do until I started reading blogs - that should be you and other volunteers. Thank you for the great work that you do.

  8. My favorite chore would be trail maintenance as well & tell Bill I prefer using a bow saw any day as opposed to a chain saw. I do have a chain saw but seldom use it.