How to Build Your Own Trail

A few summers ago, I had the opportunity to help build a trail through a new camp donated to our local YMCA. In all my years of Scouting, I had never before built a trail. I’ve cleaned them, marked them, and hiked them, but never built them. In fact, I always thought that trails just happened from people walking the same path over and over. Not so.  Trails are planned then built.

English: Trail building. Location: Maui, Makaw...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the trail we built, we had a couple of chain saws, hatchets, mattocks, shovels, and honeysuckle poppers (not to be confused with jalapeno poppers). We battled large buried rocks, wild honeysuckle, fallen trees, standing saplings, and a grove of Hawthorn–an ugly tree with 3″ thorns common in this part of Ohio. We had to dig, cut, and chop our way around the camp to create a relatively flat path for children and families to traverse when they visit the camp.

As I reflect on that experience, I notice several things about building trails:

Following an established path is fairly easy.

I’ve hiked many paths that were already there. They were generally flat, clear of obstacles, well-marked, and easy to follow. Likewise, when your path in life is following one someone else has built, the tough work will have already been done. All you will need to do is follow their lead and directions.

When building your own trail, make sure you have the right tools.

Building a new trail is difficult, but if we did not have the right tools, it would have been nearly impossible. You may not need a honeysuckle popper in building your trail. For us, it was essential. If we had tried using a machete, the trail that we had built would have been gone by the end of the season from the honeysuckle growing back over it. Your path will be unique to you. You have been given the tools you need to build it through your personality, abilities, experiences, and gifts. You must trust these tools in helping you reach your goal.

In creating your own trail, you will face many obstacles.

We faced several that I have already mentioned. The worst was likely the hawthorn tree grove. In building your path, you will face naysayers, your own fears, and other hidden obstacles along the way. How will you react to them? Many on the road to average will let those obstacles win by believing they cannot get around them. Their trail will end and they will simply follow someone else’s trail–one already carved out. Others will have the perseverance to get through or around the obstacle. They will use the tools they are given to cut down the tree or dig out the rock. They will throw that obstacle to the side and move on in building their trail.

Are you building your own trail? What has your experience been like? What obstacles have you had to overcome?


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