Using Your Trail Eyes

The busy hiking season has already kicked off on the Bay Circuit Trail with people flocking to the outdoors to enjoy the beautiful weather. AMC_BCT staff have been busy preparing for and leading volunteer days to perform basic maintenance tasks and deal with some erosion issues.The real kick off to the field season, though, takes place at AMC's Camp Dodge Volunteer Center in the White Mountains, where an influx of seasonal and full time staff converge for an annual multi-week training. There's a mix of teen trail crew leaders, professional trail crew members, hut croo, backcountry campsite caretakers, and more. BCT staff left behind Boston for a few days to join the training.

So what does seasonal staff training entail? For BCT staffers, it was a mix of axe training, improving leadership skills, tool skills and maintenance, learning and improving on more advanced trail skills, and fine tuning our "trail eyes". 

"Trail eyes" are a great tool for anyone that uses trails, not just crew leaders. Trail eyes look for not only the "what" but the "why, how, and what now?". Leaders got to spend a day hiking a 2.5 mile loop stopping at five sites where the trail had some issues. Finally tuning your trail eyes allows you to see what may look like an obstacle of rocks but is actually an old, failed rock staircase. Then, to take it further, we look at why the staircase failed, how it has impacted the area, and what to do about it. We consider the surrounding area, where water may be coming from, what impact users are making, and what options we have to fix the issue. 

So why does this matter to the average trail user? You may not be out there to maintain the trail, but you do have the power to help lessen the massive impact on the trails we love, like the Bay Circuit. Try to see the bigger picture before you follow what is called a "social trail" around something like a water bar or step stones. Take a moment to see what the impact is: is the trail six feet wide in some places instead of two feet wide? Is the social path trampling vegetation and adding to erosion? Your "trail eyes" will help you tune into your surroundings, potentially lessen your impact, and help maintain trails like the Bay Circuit for others to enjoy for a long time to come.

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