Trail Tree: A Pathmark Of First Peoples, Or What?

This fascinating "trail tree" site contains photos of other trees similar to the malformed one pictured here. When I was a kid we called these things 'outhouse trees.' When I was older and sought less humorous explanations, I thought they might be the result of disease or grazing or of a wind felled tree leaning over a sapling. Now comes this report of an amazing group of people using GPS coordinates and digital camera uploads to network an investigation into whether such "Trail Trees" might be relics of Native American navigational systems. Via The Gainsville Georgia Times:- "Mountain Stewards, based in Pickens County, has embarked on a quest to map all of these "trail trees" in North America, and they're looking for volunteers to report sightings throughout Georgia. "This is a story that has been here for hundreds of years but has never been told," said Don Wells, president of Mountain Stewards...Wells began recording the GPS coordinates of the "trail trees" he encountered. Then he took a compass and began drawing lines between them on a map. "I found that in many cases they formed a route," he said. One such path follows along ridge lines, roughly paralleling the current Appalachian Trail...American Indians would take a sapling, usually a white oak, and cut off the primary stem just above one of the branches so that the branch would become the new trunk." A coring study is underway to age the trees. Maybe they are outhouse trees and the joke is on us. Or maybe not. Check it out some more at the Trail Tree Blog. The full project description is linked from the stewards site. Image credit:- the Hazelwood Trail Tree, in State of Georgia USA