Gift of the trail
This winter, Nome has phenomenal trail conditions. Snow has come early and plentiful, making for great trails that many enjoy for outdoor recreation and traveling between villages. Trails around Nome show many different tracks: there are the long sliding tracks of skiers, the parallel tracks of dog sleds and the dogs’ paw prints. There are single tracks of fat tire bikes, there are the tracks of snowmachines and, towards the outer edges of the trail system, there are even the sliding tracks of otters. Ptarmigan make willow patches look like busy places with tracks all over. Even moose sometimes see the benefit of walking on a groomed trail, not really to the delight of those who use and groom them, but oh well, that’s just the way it is.
Moose may not be fluent in trail etiquette, but humans and particularly trail users should be. Consideration should be given to the trail markers that are bought and shipped up to Nome to be planted in the snow with the purpose to assure safe travels in bad weather or guide the way home after a blizzard left the established trail under drifts or a new coat of snow. These trail markers are placed there for a reason and while some get knocked over accidentally, sometimes I wonder if trail stakes are like magnets that trigger the urge “must run over them.” It is not only ignorant, but also a waste of other people’s money, time and effort to create safe trails. Such trail-making entities include the Nome Kennel Club, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race and the Iron Dog snowmachine race that mark trails.
Also, it seems that a portion of the Iditarod Trail is being abused as a ice haul road for mining equipment. Dragging ice mining huts or other contraptions down towards Bluff leaves deep ruts ruining the trail and renders it unsafe for fast snowmachines or sled dog travel. Yes, while the Iditarod Trail has its history steeped in being a highway between early mining camps, I doubt that those who mess up the trail have any inkling of how to appreciate the gift of the trail and the unspoken etiquette to leave it better behind than you found it in the first place.
So, if you see a downed trail stake, pick it up and put it back in the snow. If you have the urge to run them over, resist it. If you see a beautiful smooth highway of white trail ahead of you, don’t ruin it. Nome’s trail users will thank you for it. —D.H.—