Desire Lines

Winter is the best time to observe “desire lines”, those trails designed and enforced by repeated use. Like-minded and like-footed travelers, if they agree on a destination, can combine forces over time to create trails to benefit all future travelers.

Deer trail through the particularly deep snow

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon these deer highways cut through the deep snow near a water source in the Sandilands. These deer’s mutual “desires” for water, efficient passage through the snow, and quick escape from danger created deep trails through chest-deep (to a deer) snow. Judging by the speed at which a couple deer crossed my path later on, I’d say they did the trick. And coincidentally, just a few weeks earlier I’d found the remains of a deer who had evidently been less speedy at the threat of a hungry pack of wolves.

I say “like-footed”, because winter trails, and maybe trails in general, are often customized for the traveler. For humans, skiers, runners, bikers, walkers, snowshoers (not to mention motorized modes of transport) all prefer a particular trails, which can be “ruined” by others. A skier cutting trails will benefit skiers who come later (thanks Greg), but a hiker will ruin cause groans and expletives from every skier who follows. This year I’ve become a connoisseur of good “post-holing”, taking pleasure in following well-enforced boot holes through snow drifts.

To everyone who creates, maintains, grooms, travels, winter trails, thanks for helping us all get there a little quicker. We’re all in this together.