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Re: The science behind trail building

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The science behind trail building
September 17, 2009 06:45PM
I'd rather hike on trails built by someone with a bent for art than science and an eye for the mountain scenery.


http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0812/0812.1536v2.pdf
avatar Re: The science behind trail building
September 17, 2009 07:14PM
Quote
KenS
I'd rather hike on trails built by someone with a bent for art than science and an eye for the mountain scenery.


http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0812/0812.1536v2.pdf

Chick-on scratches aren't good enough? Grinning Devil
avatar Re: The science behind trail building
September 17, 2009 07:23PM
Wow.
A couple of points (and I only cursory looked at the paper)
- paths are zig-zaged in England because a pint is a PINT in bloody England
- the only forbidden angles are the angles w/o shrubbery to grab onto

Seriously, IMO the paths taken were the easiest for horses, not the most
scenic. If they truely were the most scnenic then you would see
many more ridge-line trails. One example I can think of off the top of
my head is Moraine Ridge. It's in from the edge a bit and you have
to walk east some to get better views.

Anyway, enjoy the paper...
avatar Re: The science behind trail building
September 17, 2009 08:06PM
There are too many differential equations in the paper for me. But is does suggest why walking downhill and uphill is biomechanically difficult (angle of ankle and center of gravity concerns).

Ridgeline trails may be scenic, but are "un-natural" for travel by any species because there is less water on crests and exaggerated altitude gain/loss. Not an efficient way to travel. I am trying to recall a trail used by animals, native peoples or of historic significance that followed a ridge for any extended amount. I can't think of any. The Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trails are "artificial" in that sense. I don't believe they represent archival trails.

I did some trail building in association with various open lands organizations and found it interesting to consider the design of trails (and see some that were poorly designed).
1. Trail needs to channel water off the trail itself by angulation away from the slope or water bars.
2. Switchbacks that are too tight (short radius) are prone to short cuts and, if bikes are to use the trail, may prevent bike usage.
3. It is usually better for trail preservation if the higher or lower trail is not visible.
4. Trails down a fall line produce horrible erosion problems

I don't know if this is due to animal use, but it is puzzling to see 3-6 single path trails crossing a meadow.



The cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas.
-- Carl Sagan




Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/17/2009 08:43PM by Frank Furter.
avatar Re: The science behind trail building
September 17, 2009 08:32PM
The multiple paths, if I read you right, are caused by hikers. In the spring when the trail is muddy people walk next to the muddy trail on dry ground. This will go on for a long enough period during the spring such that a new trail is started. After a few seasons the new trail becomes a wet muddy trail also and the process starts over again. There was a picture floating a round a few years ago of six parallel trails across TM. Sometims though the original trail becomes so deep that it is prudent to start a new track near the old one. The trail into Kibbie Lake is a good example. There are section of the old trail that would be about 2 feet deep. Unpleasant to hike on the original trail in the spring. Horses cause a lot of rapid trail wear.



Old Dude
avatar Re: The science behind trail building
September 17, 2009 08:59PM
From what I've seen they are caused by hikers after the mule/horse trains tear up the trail into un-walkable mud.
avatar Re: The science behind trail building
September 18, 2009 06:19AM
I noticed multiple trails in the large meadow approaching lower Cathedral Lake. More direct routes to the lake are used as the meadow dries up but more indirect routes are required when wet and the stream is full. An August path will not work in June. This would be true in many other locations. As far as Cathedral Lake is concerned there may never have been an official trail once you hit the meadow.

Back east on the Appalachian Trail I've noticed that often when the trail has the option of going over the crest of something (even a modest hump in the forest) it will mostlikely take the tough way instead of going around it. I never saw the advantage of that in deep woods where going over a hump provided no views. Apparently, the AP trail builders believed a "varied" experience was preferable when there was nothing to see but trees.

Jim
Re: The science behind trail building
September 22, 2009 09:21AM
Quote
tomdisco
I noticed multiple trails in the large meadow approaching lower Cathedral Lake. More direct routes to the lake are used as the meadow dries up but more indirect routes are required when wet and the stream is full. An August path will not work in June. This would be true in many other locations. As far as Cathedral Lake is concerned there may never have been an official trail once you hit the meadow.

Back east on the Appalachian Trail I've noticed that often when the trail has the option of going over the crest of something (even a modest hump in the forest) it will mostlikely take the tough way instead of going around it. I never saw the advantage of that in deep woods where going over a hump provided no views. Apparently, the AP trail builders believed a "varied" experience was preferable when there was nothing to see but trees.

Jim

I think Eastern U.S. trails are notorious for not bothering with switchbacks or obstacle avoidance. They are almost maniacally airline. Try climbing Mount Monadnock or Washington or Katahdin some day, and see what those trails do - switchbacks are nearly unheard-of, and only used to skirt vertical cliffs and boulders. Otherwise, it's straight up...

Mount Katahdin, in particular, is well-known for its ridgetop trails, especially the Knife Edge, the Helon Taylor Trail and the Hunt Spur. Except for the Tableland (where there is a spring, Thoreau Spring), the entire mountaintop is practically one big arete, sculpted on all sides into cirques, and the trails are accordingly routed. The Hunt Spur, which makes up a large part of the last 5.2 miles of the AT (North End), is very steep bouldering all the way up just a short way above Katahdin Stream Falls, and the other trails mentioned are not much better, if not quite as steep.
avatar Re: The science behind trail building
September 23, 2009 06:22AM
Quote
bpnjensen
Quote
tomdisco
I noticed multiple trails in the large meadow approaching lower Cathedral Lake. More direct routes to the lake are used as the meadow dries up but more indirect routes are required when wet and the stream is full. An August path will not work in June. This would be true in many other locations. As far as Cathedral Lake is concerned there may never have been an official trail once you hit the meadow.

Back east on the Appalachian Trail I've noticed that often when the trail has the option of going over the crest of something (even a modest hump in the forest) it will mostlikely take the tough way instead of going around it. I never saw the advantage of that in deep woods where going over a hump provided no views. Apparently, the AP trail builders believed a "varied" experience was preferable when there was nothing to see but trees.

Jim

I think Eastern U.S. trails are notorious for not bothering with switchbacks or obstacle avoidance. They are almost maniacally airline. Try climbing Mount Monadnock or Washington or Katahdin some day, and see what those trails do - switchbacks are nearly unheard-of, and only used to skirt vertical cliffs and boulders. Otherwise, it's straight up...

Mount Katahdin, in particular, is well-known for its ridgetop trails, especially the Knife Edge, the Helon Taylor Trail and the Hunt Spur. Except for the Tableland (where there is a spring, Thoreau Spring), the entire mountaintop is practically one big arete, sculpted on all sides into cirques, and the trails are accordingly routed. The Hunt Spur, which makes up a large part of the last 5.2 miles of the AT (North End), is very steep bouldering all the way up just a short way above Katahdin Stream Falls, and the other trails mentioned are not much better, if not quite as steep.

You are right about Eastern trail's lack of switchbacks now that I think about it. The portion of the AP in Maine that goes over Saddleback, The Horn, Little Saddleback, and Bigelow go straight up and down. This also causes lots of spring trail erosion from melting snow and ice.

Jim
avatar Re: The science behind trail building
September 18, 2009 07:22AM
Quote
eeek
From what I've seen they are caused by hikers after the mule/horse trains tear up the trail into un-walkable mud.

I was hiking from TM to Vogelsang several years ago and a ranger travelling the opposite direction snapped at me to stay on the trail-- only there were 4-6 "trails" in that section!



The cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas.
-- Carl Sagan
avatar Re: The science behind trail building
September 18, 2009 03:02PM
I'm glad you brought up this subject. The main Mount Whitney trail between Trail Crest and the JMT intersection is a scary mess, I'm surprised someone hasn't slipped off there down to their death. There should be a series of rock steps back there instead of the slippery slope. Sorry, no pictures of that from me, I was busy trying not to die...four times (twice up twice down).
avatar Re: The science behind trail building
September 21, 2009 10:14AM
My brain exploded from all the math, and now there's bloody mess all over my monitor. Good thing I don't need the brain to work.
avatar Re: The science behind trail building
September 21, 2009 11:40AM
... and, to top it off, all this time you thought that you knew what a switchback is:
http://www.scn.org/sbtp/swbk-defs.html
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