Blazing Your Trail: Path Building

The art of building paths and trails.

| October/November 1999

My husband Marc and I had always dreamed of someday buying land and building our own home in the country. But like so many others, we just never seemed to be able to find the time or to set aside enough money to fulfill that dream. Still, I'd grown up in the country and missed the rural life dearly. Little things my siblings and I did as kids kept coming back to me in memories and dreams. Padding through the log woods on a colorful, crisp morning, polishing acorns between our fingers, chasing wild animal tracks through freshly fallen snow... all of these lost pleasures called to me and made our return to the country inevitable.

One day, after Marc and I had actually managed to put a little money away (but were again going through it like bears through honey), I decided that if we were ever going to have our country dream, I'd have to act fast. I placed several ads in area papers, posted cards on local bulletin boards and, after some searching, we purchased 30 acres of the roughest Missouri Ozarks land I have ever seen.

The upper part wasn't too bad, though I did slip and fall into a dangerously concealed hole while hiking through a ravine, nearly breaking my leg. The Missouri Ozarks are sneaky that way; they hide all manner of loosely arranged rocks and critter holes beneath a protective layer of flat, wet leaves.

After stumbling around for an entire afternoon, I discovered what cavemen must have learned millennia ago: Boulders roll downhill. It is easier to walk on the tops of hills than to traverse the rocky bottoms. My mother caught up with us and pointed out the remnants of an old logging road. In the evening light we could make out two equally spaced ruts and were able to follow the old loggers' paths through the predominately oak and hickory forest.

You'd be surprised how slowly trees grow between the ruts of an old log road. Our area hadn't been logged for at least 40 years, yet the biggest tree we had to cut out to make a walkable path looked to be only a couple of inches in diameter.

To cut down on erosion, we decided to let the ruts stay filled with leaves and loose rocks and to weed-eat a path between them. The idea was to make a couple of paths wide enough so that we'll be able to drive to the top of the mountain when we are old and can't get around as well. In the process of raking, Marc uncovered an old mule shoe, which he nailed to a fence post for good luck.

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