Thursday, July 19, 2012

Trail Gnomes

The Pacific Northwest is known for some pretty strange things- BigFoot, Ted Bundy, a surplus of rain and Starbucks to name a few.. But I feel that it is essential to draw attention to a nuisance that I personally have experienced. The infamous trail gnome. It is crutial to make trail goers aware of their presence because they have been migrating all around the country, tampering with our trail systems.

I first encountered the trail gnomes back in 2007 on a hike to Lena Lake. A simple out and back day hike with my sister and good friend, Bob. Yet on the way back I couldn't help but feel that the trail seemed strangely longer. I suppressed the odd thought, but was relieved when Stacy said, "Yup! They've been here. Trail gnomes. They make the trail longer when you are headed out." I was shocked! Where did these gnomes originate? Did they work alone or in teams? Have odd blurry pictures of them walking through fields ever surfaced? Well turns out not much is known about theses pests. Because of this I have made several lists to help you deduce if you have been duped or toyed with by a trail gnome. (Note, trail gnomes shouldn't be confused with leprechauns. )

My first encounter with the gnomes in 2007
"Fun" or Frustrating facts about trail gnomes:

  • They work while you are at or on your way to your turn around point
  • They despise loops or point to point- as it makes their job nearly impossible
  • Trail can be made 40-60% longer on the way out- depending on hiker's level of exhaustion, if the hike in was done in the dark and if blisters are present on feet.
  • Gnomes tend to work in teams
  • GPS devices are also prone to alterations
  • They work in canyons, jeep roads, single track, and climber's trails.

A really good sketch of a gnome. By me. Wow.

The trail wasn't what I had remembered.

Signs you've encountered a trail gnome:

  • You keep thinking/saying "The TH is just around the next bend." And it never is.
  • You also "swear you've seen that rock/tree/stump" before and you know its close to the end.
  • The tree portion of the hike seems to have more uphill than you recall
  • You think you hear the sound of cars on a road. (Its all in your head.)
  • You've used the phrase "I think the GPS must be wrong.

BLAST! They stuck again.
Ways to combat the trail gnomes:

  • Accept defeat.
  • Make loops
  • Cry uncontrollably
  • Drown sorrows in gels
It is odd that when trail gnomes strike, most of us get a bit angry that they have made our trail back to the car or home longer. On the way out, our hopes and spirits were elevated to an obnoxious level!! Excitement was at an all time high. Yet, when we want to be done, dammit, we want to be done. Unfortunately the best way to fend off the gnomes is to accept that you are going to be away from your phone, twitter, Starbucks, and facebook and out on a nice trail for a bit longer.

I didn't actually hike that trail on the way up...

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