Trail Blazing Procedure< Back
A great multipurpose trail should be properly thought out, designed and built. However, if that trail is not properly blazed, signed, have a trailhead kiosk and have an up to date map that ties these items together, it is not a great
Before you even begin to blaze a trail, make sure that you have permission from the agency, organization or other entity that owns that trail. If you have permission, the next thing to do is gather the supplies that you will need. Here is a list of items that you will need:
As for what color of blaze to use that is usually decided by the organization that oversees that trail. Most long distance trails in the United States are blazed white. The 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail is an example. Some long distance trails near white blazed trails are blazed orange. An example is the 300 mile Mid State Trail in Pennsylvania. Side trails and shorter trails are usually blazed blue. Trails used by horses are generally blazed yellow. If an area has lots of trails other colors are used to blaze. You should try not to duplicate colors of trails in a given area. An example of an area that utilizes different colored trail blazes is Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, VA.
As for the type of blaze to use on a trail the most common type is the single 2 x 6 blaze on a tree. It will guide hikers on their hikes. If there is a turn up ahead two blazes are required. One blaze is two inches above the other, then 2 inches to either the left or right. If there is an obstacle ahead such as a low clearance, a cliff or difficult section of trail, two blazes are placed on a tree, one is two inches above the other. Turn blazes and caution blazes are always the same color. In some areas three blazes are placed on a tree to indicate the beginning or the end of a trail. This is not used very often but can be helpful to trail users in certain situations. The old school way to blaze the beginning or the end of a trail is to paint three blazes on a tree, each two inches above the other. Lately I have seen more instances of three blazes in the shape of a triangle to indicate the beginning or the end of a trail. All blazes are two inches apart. One blaze over two signifies the beginning of a trail. Two blazes over one (signifying a V for victory) signify the end of a trail. Again, I have only seen old school end/beginning blazes on The Mason-Dixon Trail in PA/MD/DE. As for the new style beginning/end blazes I have seen them on the White Trail within Doves Landing Park near Manassas, VA. So you may not have to utilize these types of blazes.
When it comes to 2 different trails sharing the same path for a period of time it does happen. The trails will hopefully have different color blazes. If so, place the dominant or longer distance trail blaze two inches above the shorter distance or local trail blaze.
When you begin blazing you should plan on only blazing for 2 or 3 hours at a time. The main reason is that it is a tiring process and you will be more prone to making mistakes if you try to blaze for long periods of time. Trust me on this. When utilizing 2 people (I hope that you do) one person should hold the template at eye level on a given tree and the other person should paint the blaze. Some people use a one inch brush, paint the edges of the template, then fill in the rest of the blaze after the template has been removed. Some people use a two inch brush and just swipe down the template. The first way is neater, the second way is faster. Be sure to wipe off your template after each blaze is painted as it gets very messy later on if you don't. And the blazes don't look as good. Switch off every now and then as to who holds the template and who blazes. It will be neater that way. Be sure to wear old clothes that you do not mind getting paint on. Because you will get paint on your clothes.
If the trail that you are blazing has too many blazes on it, feel free to block out the too many blazes with your brown, gray or black paint. Try to match the paint to the color of the tree. While blazing, think of yourself as a hiker on this trail and how you would want to see the blazes placed. The key is to make the trail look professionally blazed so that it helps guide the hiker and does not get them lost, yet does not look like a highway with too many billboards. After you get done blazing, the trail should look better than it did before.
As far as how often should one blaze a trail I have found that blazes generally start to fade after 3 or 4 years. Some trail maintenance organizations try to blaze their trails every five years. Some blaze only after they have gotten complaints. The former statement is preferable to the latter.
If you have an accident and spill paint please clean it up. In some parks this is considered a hazmat situation and you have to notify the park. In any event, take care of any accidents that may occur. If you make a mistake blazing the best thing to do is to wait until the paint dries, then come back and correct the mistake with your brown/gray/black paint, then blaze again.
Once you finish blazing you should make sure that your paint cans are closed tightly, that your used brushes and stirrers are either cleaned or disposed properly and that all supplies are stored properly after use. Make sure to clean yourself up as well. Once done, you can relax and know that you have helped improve the quality of the trail that you have just blazed.
Ellis, Mark, Trail Blazing, Retrieved from spookybeavers.net on 11/14/2020.
Prince William County, VA Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, Prince William County Trail Standards, Retrieved from pwcgov.org on 11/14/2020.
Proudman, Robert and Birchard, William, Appalachian Trail Design, Construction and Maintenance, 2nd Edition, Published January 1, 2000, Mountaineers Books, Seattle, WA.
^ Back to top
< Previous Backpacking Item
First > Backpacking Trip Log
< Back | mikecalabrese.xyz |