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The First, and Last, to Literally Blaze the Trail

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The First, and Last, to Literally Blaze the Trail

March 25, 2019

The First, and Last, to Literally Blaze the Trail

For Susan Dolph and Doug Robertson, there was something a bit clandestine about their contracting with the Association to blaze the SHT (paint the blue marks) back in 2006. 

Those who blaze together, stay together. Susan and Doug remain Trail Section Adopters to this day.

“Gayle Coyer [executive director at the time] was sort of quiet about it. She sensed there was resistance to blazing [in the organization],” recalls Doug. According to SHTA legend, early SHT pioneers resisted blazing the Trail, fearing it would mar hikers’ wilderness experience. But having hiked the entire Appalachian Trail (AT) and the SHT, Susan and Doug learned to value the presence of those trail-marking blazes – the AT with them and the SHT without them.

“Having blazes on the AT certainly didn’t diminish the experience,” Susan says. “In fact, you wake up when you don’t see blazes. They provide reassurance that you’re still on the trail.”

The couple blazed the entire SHT, painting the standard 2-inch by 6-inch blue rectangle on trees every tenth of a mile or so in the summers of 2006 and 2007. Susan started at one end of a section, Doug at the other. They would meet in the middle, have lunch, then carry on to the other end of the section  They smartly equipped themselves with two sets of keys. (Imagine forgetting to hand off each set of car keys at the mid-point…)

They have hiked the SHT several times over, and they’ve been section adopters of the Cramer Rd. to Cross River section for 16 years. They still admire their blazing handiwork, and seem pleased that the Association will be retracing their footsteps this year. (Learn more about our Blue Blaze Blitz weekends.)

Twelve years later, Susan and Doug’s blazes still provide reassurance to thousands of hikers on the SHT.

Part of their objective back then was to make the Trail easier to find for winter users, compelling them to “blaze high and blaze often.” To this day, Doug says he can detect which blazes they painted in 2006 and which were done in 2007 because they might have gotten less careful the second year. That their work is still visible and functioning is a credit to their patient commitment to do the job well.  

Published in the 2019 Winter Ridgeline Newsletter. Become a member of SHTA to receive a copy of the newsletter when it’s published.