American Elephants

The Idea of “Trails” is Far More Romantic Than the Real Thing. by The Elephant's Child
May 16, 2022, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Politics

I am fascinated with trails. Where I grew up in Idaho, there was a busy railroad that went by our resort. In the early days when we had a hotel and dining room, the railroad added a siding at our place, I presume so that the railroad bosses, who made regular trips up the branch line could get lunch at our dining room, though I don’t know that to be true, But they parked on the siding and had lunch. And my mother’s dining room was called by a young man who went around the state reviewing restaurants during the Depression for the local newspapers, rated ours as the best restaurant in the state. His name was Duncan Heinz, yes, that one.

The railroad served the logging industry, and there was a large mill in the closest town. The mill superintendent lived in our hotel . The railroad also supported the cattle industry and carloads of cattle went off to be transformed into steaks and roasts. That railroad has been shut down and transformed into a very long trail. Here in a Seattle suburb, the railroad that went from the area north of Seattle down to the south end of the lake, has also been shut down and transformed into a trail. From what I can tell, people like the idea of “trails” much more than the actually care to walk on them.

There were also real trails leading from our place to the Snake River, or to “Lost Lake” a pretty resivour 20 miles away, through pretty National Forest.

We’ve had, in the past few years sine dramatic stories in the media about murders on trails, people lost on trails, that sort of thing. From what I can tell, people really really like the idea of trails, but actually hiking or even walking on them is something quite different. Even for enthusiastic exercisers a lengthy former railroad trail is far longer than a comfortable walk in the park, and something intended to be walked on sometime in the future. Which, of course is not surprising, or shouldn’t be. Good intentions often go a’glimmering.

However, we should probably cast a bit of a critical eye on a proposal to transform a railroad branch into a trail. If the “trail” does not represent some useful necessity or desirable daily stroll, forget it and use the land in some more useful way. Just don’t get misled by the romantic notion of a “trail.”

2 Comments so far
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He is an instance where it’s done well:

W&OD Trail


Comment by dscott8186

Goodness! A paved trail! I didn’t know “trails” could come that way. Mine are apt to run out into what might be politely called “unfinished business” That is they don’t formally end, just end up in overgrowth and lack of interest I guess.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

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