Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The importance of good grooming

This photo shows the Summit Ledges Trail at Hawk Ridge in Duluth, this morning. Tall grasses and wildflowers have reached their summer peak of growth. It's time to groom. I love trails. I think the act of building a hiking trail for public use is one of the most noble things you can do. Unfortunately, hiking trails need more than just one construction season. They need regular brushing and maintenance.

In the winter, I follow the work of ski trail groomers as closely as I follow the chocolate chip supply in our cupboard at home. It's really important to me that the trails are groomed within a day or two after snowfalls. Summer hiking trail maintenance isn't nearly as frequent; one brushing may be all they need. But when they don't get it by mid-July, it's rough hiking for the next three months in those scenic open ridges until the grass dies back on its own. At Hawk Ridge, the trails today were hard to follow and easy to lose, especially at intersections.

Fortunately, a Duluth parks trail crew, led by the super-able Judy Gibbs, was out on the trails at Hawk Ridge already that day. A freshly brushed hiking trail is almost as attractive as a freshly-groomed ski trail. If the trail builders are nobililty, the trail brushers are gods.

Trail grooming concerns aside, here's what I really like about the Hawk Ridge trails. Open bedrock, a clear paint arrow pointing the way, dramatic lake views. When the hawks are rolling through in the fall, these trails are abuzz with people and kettles of birds. Today it was me and the rock and the overgrown grass.

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