While running out at Percy on Saturday, I had the privilege of running with a group that has run thousands of miles out on those trails over many years. As we ran, Phil, Jeff, and Theresa kept pointing out how different the trails look compared to when they were first built. Anyone who’s run on the white trail in the past 6 months knows what a mess certain areas are. On both the white and red trails, what used to be single track is now double track and, and in some areas, is wide enough to drive a car through. From this discussion, we started really paying attention to the trail as we ran. Sure enough, you could see the original barriers . . . and the expanded trail which had been made around them. When the trails were built, these barriers were strategically placed to prevent erosion, protect vegetation, keep soil on the trail but have been basically rendered useless. In countless areas, we saw paths that had been “constructed” around trees or roots or muddy areas.
Obviously, over the years and with increased foot traffic, there’s going to be a little widening of the trail, but this is extreme. So what’s caused this? Go out whenever it’s rained or is muddy, and you’ll find your answer. Hikers and runners who don’t want to run through puddles or mud will circumvent the actual trail to avoid getting their shoes dirty. Granted, with the widening of the trails, it’s a little hard to tell where the original trail actually is, BUT if you’re stepping on vegetation — that ain’t it. If you don’t want to get muddy or dirty, it’s cool; stick to the roads. If you want to run trails, however, you have a responsibility to be a good steward of them. Take care of the trails that take care of you. Pay attention, and stay on path, even if it means you may have to wash your shoes.