Messages on Trail: May All Your Sharpies Explode

Trail Communication Styles

So, you are on trail, you want to make yourself known. Whether you need to communicate to your tramily about where you are, want to make your fellow hikers smile, or even just art to pass the time,  don’t write in sharpie on gates or rocks.


We are all out there to enjoy the last majesty of nature. You might think it’s fun at the time, leaving your own mark on this place that touches thousands a year, but it only detracts from everyone else’s experience. Please leave your tags for online platforms and urban structures. I bring stickers to give out to people and still resist sticking them on signs and gates on along the trail to advertise. I believe in you; you can resist too.



I don’t want to hit you with what not to do; that would just make a boring article! I would very much enjoy if you’d hear me out with these exciting possible alternatives!!


So, there is easily 1,000 miles of trail where it is basically dirt or sand. Super easy to manipulate with your trekking pole, sticks, or your fingers! It is the easiest and even hardest to miss since we stare at the ground most of our day.



People will see the messages. Then the next rains will wash it away. Truly a magical experience that only a few people get to be entertained by at a time. If it’s permanent, how special is it really? Don’t we treasure those experiences not many other people have?

Just a thought.


If you want to go slightly more permanent, then there are an abundance of sticks along trail. Lot of trees and different shrubs that have broken off branches that can be used as trail messages. A little bit more permanent, yet still easy to then use Leave No Trace principles.


Less LNT, but will definitely stay there through light winds and rains. I don’t really recommend it so much since it would take quite some time. Use little rocks, don’t drag some big ones that people need to weigh their equipment down. Those rocks should only be used in emergency messages.

Such examples include the mile markers. Here is me at one of the 100-mile markers coming into Barrel Springs.



Last but not least, there are always Garmen-type devices. I know people who constantly check for service to keep in touch with their hiking partners. They are pretty expensive, so I’m not one to use these. I have a Spot device I used last year, and I mostly used it to keep my loved ones at ease. One time my emergency button got pressed by my water bottle. Luckily I checked for service an hour later at the top of this hill, being greeted by 13 missed calls from sheriffs, family, and friends. I am glad I had one when I went through the Sierra through blizzards and following avalanches when the weather did clear. 


Before I get too off track, let us talk about why you would be writing on trail. What is your reasoning for doing so? Who is your audience?

If your answer has anything to do with screens, people who aren’t on trail, etc., you should NOT be marking on anything. Period. This experience is personal for everyone. Do not try to make it all about your social status.



Trash Fact

Print analyst Smyth said this as an analysis of environmentally friends inks: “The replacement of solvent by water-based inks seems to be environmentally beneficial but may require a higher energy input to dry, resulting in an overall higher carbon footprint.”

The impacts of our products are bigger than what we imagine. The fact that bio-alternatives may create cash crops, which takes away more forests that we want to protect.

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Comments 1

  • Russ1663 : Mar 19th

    Good morning Taogoi

    Well stated. I literally leave nothing save worn prints on my old Salomon Quest boots. I appreciate the fact that our fellow wanderers feel a need to mark their existence. I location mark my maps, make a photo and move on.
    Only time a made a change in nature is to move a turtle off a paved road. Thet don’t fare well out there. Just make sure you set them down facing the same direction, they navigate my solar position.

    Take care, stay safe, have fun



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