How to Make a Trail Disappear

Our “before” picture on the social trail

Having been on two SCA trail crews, I usually associate SCA with trail construction (I spent the past two summers on high school crews building trails at Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania and Denali Alaska.) But today, my first full day with SCA’s alternate spring break crew in Everglades National Park, I did the opposite - I made a trail disappear.

Today was our first work day so we spent the whole morning in orientation (chore assignments, tool safety, etc) and headed out in the afternoon to a few different work sites. My group was sent to Christian Point Trail. Our task: to deconstruct a social trail.
Social trails are what happen when people walk off established trails so much that small plants are crushed and vegetation is kicked away, leaving a bare path behind. They’re harmful because they kill plants and break up habitat, but they’re also dangerous – it’s very easy to stray off the main trail and become hopelessly lost in areas where there are a lot of them.

We set about dismantling our social trail by dragging large logs and sticks onto its path, making it impossible for people to continue following it. Handfuls of “fairy dust” – dry brush and mangrove leaves from the forest floor – helped make our arrangement more natural-looking than the stick pile it started out as, and some artistic arrangements of Spanish moss completed the effect.


Our “after” picture! (Normally the order of these pictures would be reversed)

Aside from our trail work, we’ve all been enjoying the nice weather and beautiful Everglades environment. There are about 30 of us, students from all levels and colleges across the country, and we have 3 wonderful leaders, Stephanie, Celia, and Adam (plus our cook, Toby!). Our camp is a group campsite where we’ve set up a little village of tents and we have a “kitchen” under a shelter.

With the exception of a small morning rainstorm (which produced a beautiful rainbow), it’s been warm and sunny. A steady breeze keeps the mosquitoes away and sends a stream of osprey, black vultures, and swallow-tailed kites soaring over the campground. The vultures roost in a suitably creepy-looking tree near our campsite and in the morning they come down to see if we’ve left them any food (which of course we haven’t!), hopping around like huge, awkward rabbits. They’re actually pretty charming!

We’re also camping on a bay, which means that we might get to see a manatee at some point! We already spotted a saltwater crocodile (fortunately quite far from our tents!)