Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Trail Building: Lessons from Cape Breton Highlands National Park

At the end of May, my partner Chris and I took a little road trip to Nova Scotia. One of the reasons we went was to hike some of the trails in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. It is an absolutely beautiful area of our country. Along with the stunning landscapes and oceanscapes, we saw moose, a fox, some snakes, birds, and listened to the coyotes bark at night while camping.

The park sees a lot of visitors each year. To keep the trails in good condition a lot of hard work is done to build, maintain, and upgrade the hiking trails. While hiking, we observed some really interesting and solidly build bridges, culverts, stairs, and boardwalks. While you may never build anything to this scale on your property, there are several concepts and ideas that you might consider. The following is a photo journal of the trails we walked in Cape Breton:

{The skyline trail, complete with moose droppings! Note the wood-covered culvert near the top of the photo and the trench dug along the side of the entire 3 km trail to aid drainage}

{an up close shot of the trench and small box culvert. These were placed every 20 metres or so along the trail. Notice also how the individual boards are placed diagonally to aid traction. The entire culvert is also on the diagonal}

{an explanation of how they built the boardwalk and platforms and the underlying land. Click on the photo for a larger view}

{the boardwalk built to protect the fragile growing environment of such a harsh climate}

{I couldn't resist showing you this plaque about stewardship ;)}

{Chris resting on a bench near the side of the worn path on the other side of the Skyline trail}

{an example of a culvert on a trail}

{cribbing and bridge along the river on this trail}

{these giant rocks made walking on this ocean-side trail particularly difficult!}

{the wood on this bridge is rough-sawed to aid with traction}

{a sign informing hikers about the ancient sensitive mosses of the area}

{a creatively designed staircase with rocks along the edges for support}

Below are two really great trail building resources I would like to recommend to you:
The Complete Guide to Trail Building and Maintenance, 4th Edition, 2008 by Appalachian Mountain Club Books

Ontario's Best Trails - Guidelines and Best Practices for the Design, Construction and Maintenance of Sustainable Trails for All Ontarians http://www.abilitiescentre.org/trails/

Also, be sure to check out the Muskoka Trails Council and get out and explore some of the amazing trails we have right here in Muskoka!
I would love to hear from you. What techniques have you used on your property in building your trails?

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