Friday, March 24, 2017

Running on Desire Paths

It was the kind of chilly, windy, rainy day when you just want to sit on the couch, but I knew I had to go for a run. Unable to face the uphill climb to the park, I drove to the campground.

There's something I love about running around a deserted campground, I don't know why. (In high school, I used to run around a cemetery, but signs soon went up: No Jogging. I guess someone got offended.)



Most campgrounds are flat, which is rare terrain around here, and most have a nature trail of some sort associated with them. I was able to stitch together a short run without seeing a soul save a man with an umbrella (what do you call someone with an umbrella? A tourist).

The other thing about campgrounds is that they have little paths going everywhere. None of these are sanctioned, and I really try to stay off them, because I have spent countless hours trying to reclaim them in other areas. These, however, are pretty hardened into place, and so sometimes I can't help following them to see where they go.

All of my career I've called these "social trails", or "unauthorized routes", but I recently heard a new term: desire path. I love this! They make me think a little more kindly of people who create them. Most of the desire paths around this campground just lead straight uphill and stop.

This desire path leads to an impassible stream. Well, not impassible, but too wet to cross.
I thought about desire paths in life, too. For most of my twenties, I followed desire paths instead of designated trails. It was wild and free, but now that I've done it, lived penniless in bunkhouses, I don't have much of a need to go back there. But there's still occasional straying to be done.

What I've learned is that you pick and choose your desire paths. Durable surfaces, where you won't cause erosion or heartbreak, either one. The thing about desire paths is that other people will see where you've been and try to follow. Pretty soon there's a full-fledged trail. Tread lightly, wanderers.
Here's a desire path leading down toward the lake.

16 comments:

  1. First pic...that's looking towards our favorite sites. Second pic...watch out, that stream has been known to try and swallow a shoe with a person attached to it at just a trickle. Yep, I'm guilty of following that desire path. Third pic...pine needles are slippery when wet, especially on hills.

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  2. My family camped here many years ago, when my kids were little. :) In my line of work (transportation) we're always using "desire lines" to decide where pedestrians and bikes are wanting to go.

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    1. I read a little about that. In my line of work we try to get rid of them and change human nature. That usually doesn't work.

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    2. Years ago at the University of Idaho I first encountered the smart use of "desire" paths.

      After a new building went up, they only put in the obvious sidewalks along the road and to the front door. They waited until the next season to see where people were walking to put in the others.

      Tom
      Fairbanks

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    3. I read about planners doing that! I think it's a great idea.

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  3. I've been trying desire paths for most of my adult life. I'm now in my mid-30s and back on my desire path after being on a designated trail for three years (aka: a real job). You're right in that you do need to choose the path wisely. We have a little one, hence the safer, known path for a bit. It now currently feels safe to jump back onto the desire path, at least for a while. I'm willing to get back on the main trail if needed, but I'm going to enjoy going my own way for a bit and seeing what's over the hill that only has a faint, hard-to-follow trail.

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    1. Good for you! I'm thinking of doing the same, not yet but definitely in the next decade.I hope you enjoy it.

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  4. Unlike you I followed designated trails during my early years, thinking that money would free me up to follow desire paths later - bad plan as it turned out. Now I am contemplating making another leap or two as I try to find fulfilling work without TOO much risk....

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    1. I feel the same way. I am close but not close enough to retirement. I had a friend say to me recently that if he had as long as I did he would feel despair. He changed careers at about what point I am now. Thinking.....

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  6. I really like this idea you present about desire versus designated paths in life. Lately it seems we are gravitating more toward the designated trail, much to our chagrin. Darn medical stuff driving our decisions!

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    1. You've had a good run and can get off the trail later! It's not an either or. At least I hope not.

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  7. I recently devoured Mary Beth Baptiste's book 'Altitude Adjustment'. She was late to the game but eventually followed her desire. Thinking really hard about this.

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