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Tree Blazes

PostPosted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 5:38 pm
by Bob Burd
Though no longer considered enviro-friendly, tree blazes were effectively used for more than 100 years to mark trails and routes in the Sierra and elsewhere. They almost invariably look like a small "i". Does anybody know the reason for this? I used to think it stood for "Inyo NF" but they are ubiquitous outside the region as well. Maybe just something easily distinguishable from a bear scratching?

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Re: Tree Blazes

PostPosted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 6:22 pm
by Dave Dinnell
Quick thought and then off to ref a soccer game...I had read something regarding tree blazes-not sure where now. I had seen "T" marks in Yosemite or what might have been a blurred out "i". I think the "i" was US Forest service and "T" was used by military patrols late 1800's to early 1900's in Yosemite-not sure about elsewhere.

Re: Tree Blazes

PostPosted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 11:34 pm
by SpiderSavage
Bob,

I've heard that the short blaze on top points forward, or straight ahead. A single blaze means look to see where the blaze on the other side is pointing. If the trail turns, the blaze should point the direction of the next blaze.

This could be incorrect. I'm surprised someone with your experience doesn't already know.

Source: Boy Scout forestry training, Camp Grizzley, N. Idaho, circa 1971.

Re: Tree Blazes

PostPosted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 11:47 pm
by dskoon
Second that post on the T mark in Yosemite. Just read something about that when I was down there. Will have to see if I can find it. Interesting stuff, though.

Re: Tree Blazes

PostPosted: Sun Oct 03, 2010 2:16 am
by Moni
Back in the day, when surveyors surveyed boundary (aka section lines) they marked them with their blaze- as unique as ranch brands. It would be worth investigating who did the initial work and whether they had a distinguishing blaze.

Re: Tree Blazes

PostPosted: Sun Oct 03, 2010 2:45 am
by MoapaPk
In the west, rocks falling down slope and hitting trees make marks that look like blazes; hence it is necessary to make the blaze double to make it look unnatural (and humanly produced).

Re: Tree Blazes

PostPosted: Sun Oct 03, 2010 3:18 am
by Bob Burd
MoapaPk wrote:In the west, rocks falling down slope and hitting trees make marks that look like blazes; hence it is necessary to make the blaze double to make it look unnatural (and humanly produced).


This one doesn't make much sense to me. Rocks falling downhill will damage the trees at the edge of the forest near a cliff or very steep slope. But it must be a very rare rock that can bounce up to five feet in the middle of a forest and make a blaze. Bears or falling trees seem far more likely culprits. I agree that the blaze should be recognizable as human-made to be most useful.

I did some searching and found the following. Seems perhaps this is just USFS standard blaze.

"Although blazing systems vary, in the United States many systems follow the U.S. Forest Service standard. These blazes are carved into the bark of trees on the right side of the trail, about 5 feet (1.5 meters) up from the ground. They consist of a rectangle that's 4 inches (10 centimeters) wide by 8 inches (20 centimeters) long, with a 2 by 4-inch (5 by 10-centimeter) smaller rectangle carved above it. It looks like a lower-case letter i." source

Re: Tree Blazes

PostPosted: Sun Oct 03, 2010 7:21 am
by coldfoot
Elk and deer sometimes strip bark from trees either by chewing or rubbing with antlers. It can be at about the height you would expect a blaze.

Re: Tree Blazes

PostPosted: Sun Oct 03, 2010 7:25 am
by MoapaPk
No, you wouldn't see rockfall "blazes" in the middle of an open, low-slope woods.

I'm surprised that anyone uses blazes any more; yet I just saw a note that only blazes (and not plastic nailed markers) are allowed in wilderness areas. Thirty years ago, blazes were thought to be too damaging to trees. Maybe Moni will add an opinion.

Years ago, I thought I was following a blaze trail down a very steep talus slope (mixed in with woods) in southern NV. Then I noticed the blazes were almost everywhere, but only on the uphill side of trees, and were randomly situated from about 1 to 5 feet off the ground. I don't know if I've ever seen "real" blazes around here. But we have many, many rock-scarred trees, especially in limestone terrains, where the trees are freely mixed with cliff bands.

The bear claw marks that I've recognized as such were narrow and deep (and not in NV).

Re: Tree Blazes

PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:16 am
by Moni
Blazes don't really hurt the tree if they are not so wide as to girdle it. Even after it scars over it remains visible, so it's really a good tool for marking something long term. I have found scars that are where an original section corner tree should have been - after carefully peeling the scar tissue away, I had a perfect inverse of the original scribing from 100 hundred years ago! The tree was big and did not seem to have minded the "tatoo" it got so long ago.

I did not know the USFS had an official blaze, but it does make sense that they would - they have a long tradition.

Re: Tree Blazes

PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2015 10:04 pm
by JHH60
Painted-on (vs. axe cut) blazes remain popular on the East Coast. E.g., the Appalachian Trail uses 2"x6" painted vertical bars, not "i"s, white for main trail, blue for side trails. I guess because they are painted there's no chance confusing them with tree scars. They aren't permanent of course and have to be touched up over time.

Re: Tree Blazes

PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2015 1:10 am
by Tonka
JHH60 wrote:Painted-on (vs. axe cut) blazes remain popular on the East Coast. E.g., the Appalachian Trail uses 2"x6" painted vertical bars, not "i"s, white for main trail, blue for side trails. I guess because they are painted there's no chance confusing them with tree scars. They aren't permanent of course and have to be touched up over time.


How does a 4 1/2 year old thread on tree blazes get on your radar? :)