During this disquieting time of quarantine and self-isolation, it seems that more people are taking advantage of the beauty found along the hiking trails of our state and county parks, where they are finding some much-needed peace and entertainment. The forest is a place for both seasoned nature lovers and new hikers to discover so much about the world around them; how can we ensure that these spaces continue to be full of adventure and education, especially during such a sharp increase in traffic? Before you head back out on your next walk through the woods, we at Duke Farms encourage you to give these points some thought, so that we can all get the most out of our adventures!
Without the red blazes on the tree telling you the trail curves up and to the right, it would be easy to get lost by following the fake trail that people have worn down on the left!
Let the blazes lead the way!
State and county park staff work hard to create dynamic, picturesque, and - most importantly - safe trails for visitors to follow; they make sure the trails are passable and that the blazes are easy to follow. Blazes are usually colors and/or shapes that are marked along a trail and it is truly vital that you follow them, not just for your safety, but for the safety of the plants and animals that live along the trail. The truth of the matter is that every time you visit a forest, you are visiting the home of countless animals and plants that deserve to have their lives and spaces respected. It is not uncommon to see shortcuts worn into the parts of the forest floor between trails, but this means that whatever young and delicate plants or small animal dens were there have been trampled on and destroyed. That leads to my next point:Slow down and take a look at what lives right up against a trail. What beautiful flowers or tiny animals are right at your feet?
Spring has sprung and the forest is young!
I’m writing this message to you in May, the height of baby season! No matter where you are, during the spring and summer months there are so many more young lives to welcome into the world; the raccoons are foraging overtime to feed the kits in their dens, the ferns are unfurling their delicate leaves and reaching toward the sun, the bees are tirelessly bringing nectar home to all the new members of their hives. The trails that humans have made wind their way through all of this life, and if you stray off the designated path you open yourself up to problems: trails are typically kept clear of hazards such as poison ivy or unstable ground and animals will usually avoid building a den or hive too close to human activity. Staying on the trails is the easiest way to protect yourself and the delicate environment that you are visiting!
There is a great big world out there, with enough space for you to enjoy even while social distancing! What will you discover on your next adventure? And please don’t forget to mask up!