Tools for trails

 

Thank you for your Nov. 9 article on guerrilla trail work. As a former U.S. Forest Service trail crew foreman, trail contractor and now fire lookout, I’ve done my share of clearing “official” trails and trying to keep others open that have been neglected. Richard Coots’ spirit is laudable.


I’ve also seen the results of enthusiasm’s misguided efforts on trails, especially in designated wilderness areas, where chainsaws are not allowed. Trails, while a wonderful way to get to places in wilderness, are not part of the “untrammeled” nature of these places. Wilderness isn’t just for humans. And when Forest Service or Park Service managers make a conscious decision to not maintain a particular trail, they may have a serious reason.


This doesn’t make it any easier to see trails “disappear.” All of us who love trails outside the wilderness will try our best to keep them open, much as Richard Coots is doing. And inside the wilderness, pack your ax and cross-cut saw and encourage our public-lands managers to value the incredible resource of our nation’s trails — and the primitive skills that go along with maintaining them.


Tom Van de Water
Kooskia, Idaho, and Colton, New York