Helpful Trail-Laying Guidelines New and Improved v2.0.69
Version 2.0.69 Update Notes: Tweaked what I’ve already written and added many new helpful trail laying pointers. Tried to correct the awful grammar… will never fully succeed. On the plus side it’s virus-free from hare failings! So read and protect yourself!!!
- Mark Visibility: Ensure all marks are large and visible from a distance. As a general rule, if you are standing on a mark you should see the next mark ahead of you. It is not necessary on twisty curvy trails and in every case. However, it is very important if laying trail through shiggy. What helps me is as soon as I lay a mark, I look ahead to see where I should lay the following mark. If I can visibly see the next location to place the mark, the pack should have no problems seeing the marks themselves.
- Chalk or drywall: If you use chalk or drywall to mark trail, make sure the marks are extra thick and large. The marks are hardest to see from distance. Small thin checks, asterisks, and arrows are not easily visible unless you’re standing and staring right at them. They don’t show up well in the dark and are almost impossible to see in bad weather.
- Flour: Only use two colors: White or orange fluorescent plumbers line-chalk mixed in with the flour (buy at a hardware store). Use only orange when there is any amount of snow on the ground (day or night), when snow is in the forecast, or the streets are covered in white salt. Use white for all other occasions. White flour in general is fairly fluorescent at night. All other colors are generally too dark to see including red, especially at night and on black asphalt. Some of these colors work well if they are neon in color, but it may require extra amounts of expensive plumber’s chalk. When you do use plumbers chalk make sure it is well mixed in your flour bag and you use plenty of it. The color cannot be pastel it has to be bright neon. If done correctly the bright orange dye of the plumbers chalk will soak into layers of snow even during a storm. It is not likely to snow more than a half-an-inch in ten-minutes (time between the hares and pack), so laying trail in a storm should be fine. Just remember to double the marks for bad weather. Also before the hash begins throw a test mark on the snow to make sure it’s bright enough. When laying marks on top of the snow don’t throw marks hard and deep into the snow like you do on pavement. Just sprinkle and spread a large amount on top. It will be very visible.
- Night trails or bad weather: Hares should double their marks. Some marks might be washed away, driven over by cars/trains, blown away from high winds, swept away by an irate homeowner, etc. It only takes one or two missing marks to screw up the pack and your well planned hash. If you double the marks, the marks that are accidentally erased will not affect trail. Try to lay the marks on high surfaces to prevent rain washout. You may even have to build a pyramid of flour. On windy days try to find non-smooth surfaces. You can also smear the flour with your foot into the pavement and the mark will not blow away. From time to time my co-hare and I will lay a bad mark. We usually get on our hands and knees and blow away the offending mark. This rarely works well if the mark is pressed into the ground.
- Grass: Do not lay flour in the grass, use TP. If possible lay a hare arrow before entering a large grassy area to cross. Sometimes when I have no choice, mostly for checks because TP doesn’t work very well, I will kick my heals into the ground removing the grass and leaves until I reach dirt. I then lay the flour on top of the dirt. The marks show up very clearly as white on dark brown soil.
- Parked Cars: Avoid laying trail near parked cars. Cars do move and sometimes will cover your marks including your checks and backchecks.
- Vertical Surfaces: When laying flour on trees or poles, don’t just throw the mark against the tree. It usually won’t stick. Press and rub the flour into the tree bark.
- Extra Flour: On live trails always hide extra bags of flour along the trail route. You will always need more flour then what you can carry. Sometimes, I don’t use all the flour I hide out in the woods. But it’s better than running up short. In some cases I will go ahead and overfill my bag and purposely lay many big marks to remove the excess flour weight. I usually hide the extra flour bags past the BN. If the pack happens to catch up, they will first stop at the BN allowing me to refill my bag without being detected.
- 30-Second Rule: As a general rule it should take the pack less than thirty seconds to find true trail off a check and backcheck. If it takes longer then you are making it too difficult for them to find marks. The pack likes to keep moving, especially if the weather is cold. A pack that doesn’t keep moving forward (with no beer in their hand) is going to be unhappy.
- Ten-Minute Rule: As a general rule the pack should finish the trail less than ten minutes after you lay the last On-In mark (unless you pre-lay or you have ten co-hares). This is a good indicator that the pack found your marks without any difficulties. If the pack is not a pack when they reach the On-In (not generally grouped together), then they had problems finding your marks. The other possibility is that they are strung out along the trail. This might be because trail was more likely a run rather than a hash. Trail with well-placed checks can keep the pack together. Packs like each other’s company! …talk about things like what an awesome trail you laid, etc.
- Total Trail Time: In calculating how long it will take for the pack to complete a hash I use 10 minutes per kilometer plus seven or so minutes per BN. Add extra time for steep hills, shiggy, bad weather, hot weather, etc. The total time is usually a decent indicator.
- Checks: Not enough then the trail is not a hash but a 5K training run. Mislaid checks can also be a problem. If the trail circles around close to itself, then there is the danger of the pack accidentally finding the backside of trail from a check. I will sometimes run a great distance on a false only to find the backside of trail. I don’t always know that this is true (maybe I missed seeing marks on the other side of the street?). It only takes a few blows of my whistle for the rest of the pack to follow, thus causing the whole pack to miss part of your trail and potentially BNs. Therefore, when planning trails, don’t focus completely on the route. The way you lay your marks can be equally important in the success of the trail. Sometimes checks can be used in other ways similar to backchecks. One mark off the check is true trail. Sometimes when turnout is exceedingly low or if the weather is really bad I tell the pack at chalk talk there are no false trails. Any first mark you find off a check is true trail. This helps keep trail moving at a faster pace for the pack if they don’t have the numbers to search for marks. Also good for bad weather situations when search times could be longer (marks could be erased before the pack arrives, etc.). Be wary of laying checks next to private property. Try to keep hashers from running all over someone’s lawn.
- Backchecks: They are fun to lay and are fun for the pack to find. However, they don’t work if you hide your first mark exceedingly well (30-second rule). Be careful of distance, don’t make the pack run a half-mile backwards. At the same time don’t lay the first backcheck mark too close to the check. This will cause the pack confusion. “Are the marks from the check or backcheck?” Also stay away from using backchecks with a number indicator. Go so many marks backwards before looking for the first backcheck mark (like BC-10). If any of the backward marks disappear, it’s going to be difficult for the pack.
- Circle-Jerks (marks circling all the way back to the check, one mark off the outside is true trail): Essentially stay away from using them. It usually takes the pack forever to find trail and when they do, the poor hashers on the other side of the circle won’t know which way to go. I’ve laid them in the past and I’ve seen others do the same thing. It usually ends up in disaster with the pack spread out everywhere and pissed off.
- Busy Streets: Do not endanger people’s lives by laying trail along busy high-speed thoroughfares with no place to run safely. One trip and fall of a hasher and they’re dead.
- Tandem Trail Laying. From experience it is always best to have the front hare lay true trail including checks and backchecks. It prevents confusion on who should lay trail. It also allows the trailing hares to add additional marks when needed. In some ways they act as the pack and can judge how well the pack can see the marks. Many moons ago my co-hare and I made a terrible mistake. We were both running together along a wooded trail. We were supposed to lay a check, false straight, then lay true directly into the woods on the left. Well unfortunately neither one of us laid the check, expecting the other one to do so. When the pack arrived they essentially just ran out of marks and had no idea where trail went even after searching in every conceivable direction. It took them forever to find the marks into woods. They were understandably not happy! And we were well hydrated after circle. If we just followed the simple rule, front hare always lays true trail including checks, then this would never have happened.
- Leap Frog Tandem: Basically same as above, front hare lays true trail. However, once the front hare lays a check, usually that same hare will lay the false’s from the check until the trailing hare catches up. The trailing hare can then leap frog ahead, lay true, and more importantly catch their breath. This continues on-on in a leap-frog pattern.
- Start of Trail: It’s a good idea for the hares leaving the parking lot to lay a lot of initial marks. This will help late cummers, who missed seeing the hares and pack leave. Late cummers don’t have the benefit of visually seeing the hares leaving the parking lot. They rely totally on the hash marks. It is also a good idea from someone in the pack to draw a pack arrow indicating direction and the time the hares left, next to chalk talk. This will assist the late cummers find the initial direction of trail quickly, determine the hares lead time, and run like hell hoping the pack didn’t drink all the good stuff at the BN! The pack of course can make the late cummer drink at circle for all the extra help given including pack arrows!
- BNs and BQs: Do not lay checks or backchecks anywhere close to these locations. It only takes one FRB looking for marks off a check to blow their whistle when they accidentally stumble upon marks beyond the BN. The pack will follow the whistle and miss out on the beer! Lay lots of hare arrows and spoon feed them into the BN. Also make sure marks leading out of BN cannot be seen by hashers before reaching the BN. They will simply bypass the BN and go straight toward the marks. Do not lay the BN at locations where the pack can short cut around it, say straight across a field instead of going around the corners where the BN is located.
- Hare Splits: To save running time sometimes the hares will split apart and lay parts of trail separately. It works well for experience hares and when this coordination is practiced. At the last moment, I like to do a map review with my co-hares on the splits just prior to chalk talk to make sure there is no confusion about who is supposed to do what on trail. I strongly recommend no splits for virgin hares. I usually make sure they are always within visual eye site and yelling distance, since communication is a must! Remember virgin hares focus is totally on laying the trail in front of them. Giving them too much responsibility combined with the fear of getting caught, spells trouble.
- Hare Snares: Don’t be afraid of hair snares, it happens, and the humiliation will last only ten-seconds. However, if nightmares persist of Gimp chasing you, causing your lack of precious beauty sleep, and waking up in the middle of the night in a deep cold sweat, please get professional help…or just pay off Gimp with snob beer to stay at the rear of the pack. It will be cheaper!
- Flour Bags: Don’t leave your flour bags unattended. Hashers will fill them full of rocks and empty beer cans, and then you’ll wonder too late into the trail why you bag is so damn heavy (I’m sorry that I started that tradition). Also don’t leave your flour bags outside in freezing weather. It’s literally like dipping your hands continually into a bag of ice. I almost got a bad case of frost bite from doing that even though I was wearing gloves…it was very painful! Keep your flour in your warm car as long as possible.
- TP: Fag bags works well for holding TP. Sometimes I’ll even pre-tear the TP to make it easier to grab and hang on tree branches (make sure to wrap it a few times so it won’t fall out easily). Use TP across any type of terrain where you can’t lay visible flour marks. Sometimes the TP will blow away or hashers will accidentally knock it down when they brush against it. TP is the most likely to be a lost mark. Make sure you lay a lot of it for the poor DFL’s to find.
- Pre-lay: I won’t discuss a lot on this subject. Just be realistic like it was live trail. Mile long YBF’s while laying trail from your car won’t make it enjoyable for the hashers. I will sometimes pre-lay pink or orange marking tape in particularly rough spots that are hard to spot while on the run. Places where there is entry and exit points. Otherwise, it might be hell for everyone going through all the sticker bushes. I also like to tear the plastic streamers off the trees and stuff them in my pocket during the run. I then use TP or flour to mark the same location.
- Devil Hare: On rare occasions when I was just plain mean, I will lay a mark in front of a sticker bush, then run around it to the other side, then continue marking trail. Hashers will go straight through it thinking the hares also went the same way since they see marks just on the other side of the bush. I sometimes see this technique where the hares will try to make the pack cross a stream at the deepest point when there is easier crossing points nearby. Poison Ivy and stinging nettles should also be avoided. Probably not a good idea to do any of these things. Suffering hashers will not give you style points.
- DD Marks (Don’t Die): Indicates especially bad areas, not just busy road crossing, but also areas where it is likely someone can have some very serious falls with injuries. Falls do happen a lot… note the many dirty butts after trail as proof!
- Stream Crossings: Always have a Plan B when your trail route crosses a stream. During heavy rainfalls it may not be crossable. The same goes for culverts under roads. If it’s iffy, check the water on the day of the event before attempting these potentially dangerous routes. Also, be wary of fast-moving streams even if it is shallow. It can easily knock a hasher down and drown them downstream.
- Athleticism: Not everyone can go into areas that require feats of strength and agility. Climbing over fences, squeezing through tough spots (most of us have beer bellies), climbing up steep hills, repelling off cliffs with a rope, etc. Make sure everyone can overcome or bypass these obstacles. Not just the hares.
- Civilians: Many times while laying trail alarmed civilians will ask you what are you doing? Are trying to poison my little dog!? Just tell them “I’m laying a trail of baking flour for a trail-running group to follow. The flour is so they don’t get lost.” For some reason they will believe you every time. You don’t mention the word hash (drugs?), beer, or half-nekkid people trying to get drunk. It’s just a fun run with normal people trying to stay fit. It’s truth without the gory details. It’s quick and to the point, so you can keep on haring without worrying you’ll be placed in the back of a police car while they sort out the poison dog theory.
- Keep the hash simple: Remember the hash is not about you. It’s not about trickery. It’s not about how good you feel when the pack can’t find your trail. No one will like you for it. Think of it this way: your primary focus is providing the pack the best pleasurable experience possible, like HTS in a hot tub surrounded by floating boobs… envision his smiling face. That’s what you are aiming for!
Next Hash Edition: “How beer saved the world”. Oh wait there is already a TV movie on the subject! Pretty funny cartoon illustrations for those who don’t understand the expert technical explanations. And it makes you thirsty! You can watch it online, but try to find good audio version… or just watch the cartoons.