Monday, November 28, 2011

Teach children about hiking trail markers

Signpost at Bryce Canyon National Park.
In most cases, the trail is an obvious path through the wilds. Sometimes, though, there are branching trails not always marked on the map. You can avoid getting lost by following a variety of trail markers. Teaching kids about these trail markers can be vital to their safety. Be forewarned, though, that in some official wilderness areas, man-made improvements are not allowed, so there will be no trail signs.

Common trail markers include:
g Signpost - A signpost usually gives the name of the trail and some-times provides an arrow showing which way the path goes at a fork or junction. Many national parks and forests use a simple wooden pole in the ground that provide such in-formation as the Forest Road number and forbidden activities on the trail, such as driving an ATV over it. Other parks might actually nail a sign to a tree, though this is generally falling into disfavor as animals sometimes chew on the signs.
g Directional signs - These signs sometimes tell you the name of your trail, usually at the trailhead, but once out in the wilds more often than not they tell how far another trail or landmark is. They’re usually hung at forks or junctures.
g Paint blazes - Sometimes shapes will be painted on trees along the trail. Usually a single color is used for the trail’s length. Each shape symbolizes a different piece of information.
g Cairns - These are piles of stones that indicate you’re on a trail. Usually cairns are found in desert areas or on mountains above the tree line.
g Rocks and boulders - In deserts where trees are rare, paint blazes may be used on rocks and boulders rather than trees. For environmental and aesthetic reasons, cairns are preferred, however.
g Flags - Surveyor’s tape and ribbons of fabric might be tied on trees to indicate an unofficial or temporary trail. This method typically is used during trail construction of a trail.

Read more about day hiking with children in the guidebook Hikes with Tykes.