Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Trail Maintenance...and Ultrarunning

Was up on Monday to "my" Reese Hollow Shelter and Trail where I am the volunteer overseer for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC).  There were several inches of snow on the ground, which made for slow going, but all in all it was a fun trip.

It was part winter hike and part work trip.  The primary purpose was to install some trail marker signs and to clear a couple blowdown trees that I had noted on my last trip a few weeks back.

For those of you anal about signs, here's the progression of work:

Info carved with Dremel tool into pressure-treated decking board

Next, painted Rustoleum brown

Letters painted white
Installed on sign post

Note that I don't have a router but the Dremel tool makes a pretty decent substitute...with a bit of practice.

Oh, the connection to Ultrarunning is obvious: trail construction and ongoing maintenance don't just happen.  I obliviously ran for many years on trails all over the country without thinking too hard about their origins and ongoing existence.  But over time awareness dawned and I began to think about how I could give back once I had more time.  With retirement, I had no more excuses so I signed up with PATC and truly enjoy the volunteer work.


  1. Hello! We are looking to make a few signs for our property on the trails we have created here. Any advice for using the Dremel? What tip did you use? What letter - did you print and trace it on or how did you transfer your letters before drilling them out. This is just what we were looking for. Also - I hiked half the AT in 2008 (Bottle Cap), so thanks for your trial maintenance!

  2. I am sorry I did not see your email till now—I have blog comments dumped into a folder that I do not check as regularly as I should.

    DREMEL TIP: My Dremel tool is the Model 4000 Series, about the size of a large cucumber. The Dremel tip I used is # 117.

    DREMEL CUTTING GUIDE: I put on the Dremel Cutting Guide that comes with the tool, which allows the Dremel to rest vertically on the wood and you just guide it along the traced letter outline. I think it’s much like using a router. I set the depth of the cutting blade to be between ¼” and 1/8”.

    FONT: The font I used is Arial Rounded MT Bold.

    CREATING THE STENCIL, EXACTO KNIFE METHOD: In Microsoft Word, I used INSERT and Word Art to create a text box with the right signage and font above. In Word Art you can stretch the text box horizontally and vertically. I used 1.5” high; on length I just used a gut feeling to gauge the appropriate length. In Word Art there is an option to vary the space between letters so I maxed that spacing out. Then I printed the words of the sign (which will likely be individual words that you must align for the mock-up of your sign). I used an Exacto knife to cut the letters out into a stencil, then traced the letters onto the wood in pencil.

    CREATING THE STENCIL, TRACING METHOD: Create the printed words as above, then skip the cutting out/stencil part and use a type of carbon paper to transfer the letters to the wood. I just bought this craft tracing paper but have not used it yet: “Saral Transfer (Tracing) Paper blue non-photographic 12 1/2 in. x 12 ft. roll” I got it from Amazon for about $12.00.

    PAINT: I painted the whole board, with cut letters, in basic Rustoleum Brown, then painted the cut letters in white.

    Hey, way to go on your AT hike! That’s not realistic for me but I’m with you thru-hikers in spirit!