Defacing Trail Blazes: Right, Wrong, or Otherwise?

On this unusually warm Super Bowl Sunday in southwest Connecticut, I went on my first ever hike at Lucius Pond Ordway/Devil’s Den Preserve, the Nature Conservancy’s largest preserve in Connecticut (more on the hike and preserve in a later post).

While hiking, I came across these two trail blazes (continue reading below pictures):

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I had never seen anything like this before.  I had never even thought about doing anything like drawing on trail blazes.  It got me thinking, is this wrong?

Okay, I’m not sure if anyone would argue that it is right, or okay.  But if it’s not, then what makes it wrong?

Environmentally, I can’t imagine it’s that big of a deal.  I mean, it can’t be any worse than putting paint on the tree.  It’s just a little more ink on top of the paint.  All of this will eventually chip off or wear away over time and enter the soil.  Its impact can’t be much greater than the microscopic bits of rubber that break off the tips of my trekking poles with use (a personal impact I am still contemplating).  It is not nearly as invasive or impactful as carving into the tree’s bark, which is blatantly wrong to do.  Would it be different if the person had drawn with marker right onto the tree’s bark?

Is it vandalism?  I guess it is a form of graffiti.  I guess it is destruction of the Nature Conservancy’s property, but I wonder if there is any legislation against it.  It certainly isn’t something as convincingly illegal as some sort of resource extraction.  Once again, does the fact that the drawing is on that paint rather than the bark change the nature of this act?

As far as recreation and navigation is concerned, I think it’s a non issue, at least in this case.  Nothing was drawn to confuse the hiker, and the blaze was not eliminated or covered. However, I’m sure in another instance, additional markings on the blaze could be misleading.  This does not however have as big of an impact on navigation as say, someone knocking down a rock cairn above treeline.

So, if it’s not right, it might be difficult to tell if it’s really wrong.  So is it just, neutral?  I’m not sure.

Has anyone else ever seen anything like this?  Does anyone have any other expertise or opinions?

Ultimately, I was kind of taken by surprise seeing these blazes, but found them rather clever and funny.  I certainly wouldn’t encourage doing it, but it didn’t really bother me.  It may just be novelty to me, and I might like it less if things like this were more common.  Maybe my opinion will change with further reflection.

Let me know what you think.  Otherwise, enjoy the Super Bowl!

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3 thoughts on “Defacing Trail Blazes: Right, Wrong, or Otherwise?

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