A walking trail is maintained around the perimeter of the largest open field. Unless guests are expected to be using the trail, the plants are allowed to grow until late spring before being mowed. It could be hard to find the trail boundaries at the time of the first mowing if it weren’t for the fact that over two decades of mowing has created a plant composition that is distinct from the surrounding field. A slightly different color and texture of the vegetation on the trail makes it easy to see. Some worn places created by frequent animal use also help identify the trail midline.
The trail serves several purposes. Traffic control is a primary concern. Someone traveling the trail is not likely to be trampling rare or unusual plants. They’re not going to be scaring birds from their nests, stumbling over ant mounds, squashing tiny wildlife or leaving long lasting signs of their passing. They’re also not likely to anger the property manager, who has been known to escort undisciplined individuals to their vehicle and send them on their way.
I enjoy the trail as a place where I can take a relaxing walk without picking up ticks or accumulating chigger bites. A fifteen minute late season walk doesn’t require another fifteen minutes cleaning sticky seeds from my clothes. Field wildlife is also much easier to approach when moving quietly down the trail.
The trail gives access to all of the various conditions found in the field. Frequently traveling a set path allows you to experience the changes that occur in the landscape as well as in individual plants. No matter how often the trail is walked, there is always something new to see.
Field trails must be wide. Despite its almost seven foot width, the trail will be almost completely blocked when the tall grasses begin to lean in next September.
Trails are simple things, but they can be a great source of pleasure and provide considerable benefits in frequently traveled managed areas.