#AtoZChallenge | T is for Trees and Trail Markers

In the winter, when the trees have shed their leaves and all that remains are the bare branches some unique, interesting natural sculptures begin to appear. I’m drawn to trees that are different and I don’t think I’m alone because many of the trail markers that I see on our hikes are placed on the most unique trees.

Some trail markers are painted on to the trees while others are actual tags that are attached and as we’ve grown in our hiking experience we’ve gotten a lot better at spotting them. Fortunately, at least for us, it seems to be a little easier in the winter which is good because the actual trail can be more challenging to find when the ground is covered in snow and you can’t always trust the trampled path of those that went before you. Sometimes they wander off the main trail so you need to rely on your trail markers.

When I posted a picture of a trail marker on a crooked tree to Instagram, someone commented that crooked trees often indicate a water source as Native American’s use to train the trees to grow like that so they could sit on them and watch for their prey. It piqued my interest and I had to do more research and discovered that trail trees are a real thing.

According to the American Forests website, Native Americans would bend young trees to create trail markers to identify trails, and point you towards water, food or other important sites. Each tribe created slightly different markers. Sadly, my little crooked tree was probably much too young to be a true trail marker since those trees are 150 to 200 years old, but maybe someone is picking up the tradition.

There are also groups throughout the country identifying and working to preserve trail trees and the Mountain Stewards have even created an interactive map of their database where you can see some of the amazing trail trees they have documented. From looking at their map, most trail trees are located in the South but I’ll keep looking during my hikes. Maybe I’ll discover a few true trail trees in Maine someday.

Have you ever seen a trail tree?

Trail Trees. (2016, September 08). Retrieved March 25, 2018, from

I’m participating in a Blogging A-Z Challenge for April 2018. I will be posting new content every day this month except most Sundays. Each post is associated with a letter of the alphabet, starting with A and ending with Z. My theme for the challenge is Winters in Maine. To read more of my A to Z posts, click HERE.

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28 thoughts on “#AtoZChallenge | T is for Trees and Trail Markers

  1. Sarah Ferguson and Choppy says:

    I love the idea of forcing a tree to grow a certain way to mark a trail. So cool!

    Paul and I were hiking up in Door County a couple summers ago and saw some interesting trees. The plastic trail markers on these trees had been there so long, the bark of the trees was growing around them and covering them up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Diane says:

    Trees fascinate me. Where I was raised, we had one natural-growing tree. (And when you live on a ranch that covers 92 sections, that is significant!) All others were planted by my Dad in his youth. So you can see why my family practically worships trees.
    I had never heard of ‘tree markers’. (When you have one, what’s the use?)
    Gotta look into this! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Allison says:

    In the woods behind my grandparents farm are a couple of trees that have very strange shapes, almost running parallel along the round for a few feet then curving back upwards. They are quite old, and who knows how it originally happened but I’ve spent quite a few hours sitting in the crooks of trees, reading and just enjoying the quiet of the woods. It’s been a while since I’ve seen those trees, I’ll have to take a wander into the woods to see if they are still there. Thanks for reminding me of those wonderful childhood memories.

    Liked by 1 person

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