Soft Trail, Harder Traveling

By , October 21, 2015

A series of torrential rains have changed our trail conditions recently.

Most of our main trail has been established for more than 30 years now. The passage of so many people over the years compacted the soil until one can tell immediately that one has stepped off the established path by the change in the density of the forest floor underfoot.

What makes the weather noteworthy is that this condition has changed.

We experience several notable downpours every year (see Monsoon Trail). The ground, though porous, seems to shed more water than it absorbs. Our hard packed trail becomes a sluiceway as rain water washes over it for short periods. We routinely lose most of the loose duff that accumulates on the trail—spruce and hemlock needles, cones, twigs, bark, and other organic matieral—as it washes away. It slowly regenerates over time, and the cycle repeats. We sometimes “mine” the accumulated wash outs for outhouse duff.

Now, the rainstorms have softened the trail surface itself, creating soft patches from the cabin to the bay. Suddenly, the very center of the well packed trail has become spongy and soft. Where before we might trace vague boot prints from our passage and others, now we find full, deep footprints pressed into the trail.

For now, this offers a mild curiosity and annoyance. I hope it doesn’t last until the first freezes of winter. If the footprints and other gouges harden, they won’t make the trail any easier to use. We spent a fair amount of time and effort improving the trail with the neighbors (see A Good Day’s Work/A Good Day’s Goof Off) one of whom is preparing to undergo long-needed knee surgery. He doesn’t need any further difficulties hiking in and out of his home.

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