Thoughts On Trails - And How They're Made | KERA News

Thoughts On Trails - And How They're Made

Jul 25, 2016

If you live in North Texas, you’ve probably taken a stroll down the Katy Trail or spent the morning hiking at Cedar Ridge Preserve. Ever wonder, though, how these things got there? Today on Think, Krys Boyd spoke with Robert Moor, author of “On Trails: An Exploration,” about the role people play in forming new paths

The KERA Interview

Robert Moor on

… how trails are made:

“In most cases there is not a single trailblazer who goes out like Daniel Boone that blazes a path through the wilderness and gives it his name. Most of the time it’s what they call an emergent property, an emergent phenomenon. It just emerges out of many people trying to find their way across the landscape.”

… why walking is relaxing:    

“There’s just something about the rhythm of walking. The way that it requires a little bit of attention, but not too much attention, that frees up your brain. It’s kind of like doodling or there’s certain things that people find soothing. I think walking is for me, by far, the most beautiful activity to free up the brain.”

… how trials linked people in early North America:

“People would start exploring their landscapes and they’d start finding places. They’d find where good medicine was or they’d find a place of particular spiritual power. Of course, they’d also find other villages and as they traveled across these places over time there would be trails forming. And those trails would knit themselves together with stories. You’d have stories that would describe following the trails, going certain places, gathering plants, visiting certain sites. Out of that came this really beautiful culture that was tied very, very closely to the land.”     

… what desire lines are:

“[Desire lines are] the trails that you’ll notice in pretty much in any city park. They’re cutting across the grass. What happens is city planners, landscape architects they like rectangles. They like big rectangles of grass, because it looks nice to us, you know it’s sort of modern. But walkers don’t like that. We like to follow the path of least resistance. We don’t want to walk around the edges of the rectangle. We create a shortcut. As you create those shortcuts enough times, you will create a desire line.”