Bosque Trail System

Trails at the Bosque save the forest.

Some people come to the forest afraid at first. They have never lived this close to nature before. The forest is surprisingly large and, especially the first night, a city-dwelling guest walking in the dark can be intimidated with their tiny headlamp and the sounds of the forest around them. It is easy to get lost at night. Luckily other friendly campers who are already comfortable can usually help people find their cabana the first night, and the following nights are much easier.

It all gets easier after that and when the dawn comes, and they are surprised to find they can be comfortable and intrigued by the magical forest they live in. We try to encourage guests to get away from the buildings so they can be alone with the trees, see the most elusive of birds such as the Trogons or the Great Horned Owl, and find some of the magical spots we don’t even put on the Bosque map.

The Bosque has a huge network of trails to let people explore the forest and be closer nature than most people have ever been in their lives. The system took years of labor to plan, build and maintain. While we like to have as few rules as possible, one of the most important is to stay on the trails. The effects of even the most playful humans can destroy the nature we are here to protect.

A human male, 1.8 meters tall of medium build, walking causes about 16 pounds per square inch of pressure on the ground. The compacted soil of a well used trail cannot grow anything but the hardiest of plants and certainly the edible mushrooms which are common in the rainy season cannot grow there. The effects of people walking in the forest, or of even a single car passing over the ground can take years to heal.

The Bosque does have spaces set aside for humans to play. The View area provides spaces for dance, yoga and meditation while the Nexus has a volleyball court. For those who really want to run around, an acre called Frenzy is reserved for playing capture the flag, lasertag and other group games. Some group camping spots are also available. Otherwise we stay on the trails, except when mushroom hunting or working on critical habitat restoration projects.

Planning a trail system and integrating water planning.
Planning the layout of the trails using a GPS took years. Most of the trails follow level along the slope and we are widening many of them into terraces. The terraces are tilted back into the slope so that the heavy rains collect in them acting as a swale would. We call these “swale trails.” They keep the water from flowing downhill and store it in the soil where it can be used by plant life. The soil dug to make the trail is loose and so both native and garden plants can more easily sink their roots down.  Read information about permaculture swales in wikipedia.

The wider trails also allow people to walk side by side through the forest and support the use of carts rather than cars reducing the need for roads in the Bosque. They are also easier to use at night as the smaller and less used trails grow over in a couple years. The trails also serve as a firebreak in case of a forest fire.

History and Restoration
Because over 60 years ago the forest used to be cropland exposed to heavy rains, and had cows grazed on it, and was trampled by pine resin collectors and wood poachers, the forest has fairly compacted soil. Few locations have worms to churn the soil and the dominant pine trees tend to discourage a wide diversity of plant undergrowth. In the past, the fallen branches were considered debris so were collected and burned in piles. Fallen branches and trees are now left on the ground to rot and build up a layer of humus rich soil. The native understory of plant recover is covering and the oaks and madrones will again become the dominant tree. We leave dead trees standing to provide bird habitat. We are also planting other native and food forest trees to speed the diversification process and plan for possible climate change which could cause local death or extinction of many species. The entire process of returning the Bosque to something resembling an old growth forest will likely take another 100 years at least. An essential part of the Bosque experiment is to find ways humans can live in a forest without destroying it.

The dangers of not planning a trail system
If you look at the evolution of a community space, most people likely don’t predict it’s future destruction. Let’s say you are camping with friends, or are a nomadic tribe on a hunting expedition in a remote area, then you likely wouldn’t think too much about trampling here or there to gather food and water or to build a temporary shelter using natural materials. When you have few people, the land can heal itself, but as the tribe grows the entire surrounding area gets trampled. Perhaps this is not considered a problem as the humans will deforest and pave all of it eventually. Even modern public parks are generally trampled and have little biodiversity. However, in the Bosque we would like to live in the most pristine nature as we slowly help the land heal into an old growth forest with great diversity of plants and wildlife. We must plan for humans to be in nature without destroying it. Our own feet are a possible enemy. By defining the trails before inviting people into the fragile forest, we can protect the land. By placing the trails carefully we can get people where they want to go, while taking into account erosion, soil quality, and plant life.  Visitors to the Bosque can explore deep into the forest without destroying plants and habitat.

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