I'm continually amazed at how fast the forest changes and grows. While we usually lament this fast growth as we're battling face slappers and vines, it's a real boon when healing abandoned trails. We just need to help it along...
Back in 2009, we had a short problem area at Lakeshore, a section of trail at the bottom of a hollow with no drainage. Days after each rainfall, it still looked like this:
Backtracking up the trail, we flagged a reroute on some higher ground.
A couple day's work later and we had 100 yards of old trail to reclaim. Dave and I began by running a tiller to break up the compacted soil. This is important because it lets rain penetrate and provides a great substrate for seeds and plants to get established. We also transplanted some small trees before duffing the trail with forest litter and branches. At the entrance, we transplanted a small pine sapling to camouflage the old trail and discourage anyone from re-opening the line.
16 months later, the entry to the old section looked like this:
That small pine tree in the center of the photo was planted directly in the old trail bed. You can see some of the logs and branches we used to duff the trail, but already the old trail was becoming a memory. Few riders took any notice of it at all.
Today, 3 years later, that area looks like this:
The pine tree we transplanted has grown to over 6 feet tall, and there are a number of tree saplings in the old trail that are nearing waist height. It's hard to remember that this was the muddy, rutted out trail in the first image:
Really the only clues that identify this as an old trail are the cut branch stubs on the tree trunks next to where the trail once passed. There's a lot of garlic mustard and other invasive plants that are all over this woods, but also a lot of small maples, beech (I think), and other desireables who will hopefully win out over time.
At a recent trail day at Maybury we followed the same techniques to reclaim some old abandoned trail near a wetland.
Hopefully, this trail too will be lost to time over the next couple years.