Trail-Setting Tips

To be read in conjunction with the Suggestions for Setting on this website:

Setting a trail for the hash is the noblest endeavor available for members of this confederation.  Verily and stuff like that it is a high calling and of critical importance to the success of our enterprise.  So you should do it, and merrily ignore whatever complaints someone manages to make.  Someone will almost certainly complain about something – too long, too short, too many checks, not enough checks, too much mud, too much pavement, yeah yeah yeah.

However, if you’d like a few hints for successful trail setting, some of our senior members have graciously shared the following:

GOAL:  A worthwhile goal is to keep the pack together.  This demands frequent checks or backchecks, so the FRBs keep getting sent back down false trails to rejoin the pack.
  • For a four-mile true trail, you should expect to set at least six miles with your falses, and more likely closer to eight.  Short answer:    Put a check anywhere there’s a choice of directions to go.  The proper length of back checks and false trails is a controversial subject, but most would agree that 100-200 yards is reasonable, and a quarter mile is not.
  • Valiant comments:  “A Hash is not supposed to be a race or an endurance contest, where only the fittest survive.  It is supposed to be fun and a good exercise/workout, not a death march.”
A superb flour bag, hand-crafted of four plastic grocery sacks and plenty of duct tape.
Tape 3-4 sacks together at the top, and reinforce the handles with tape.  Tape down the sides
and across the bottom of the sacks for reinforcement and ease of opening.  When it eventually
springs a leak, add another bag.

Use plenty of flour and chalk.  Assume ten pounds-plus of flour, and at least 50% more if you’ve got any bushwhacking in your mix.  Use a generous handful for each ‘on.’  Mark checks and back checks with two or three layers of flour or chalk, so even those with middle-aged vision impairments can see them.  This is serious; those middle-aged vision impairments can be aggressive.
  • Even if your trail goes right down the same sidewalk for four blocks, drop some flour along the way.  Maybe an ‘on’ every tenth of a mile or so, to give the shrinking violets confidence.
  • Be aware that sidewalk chalk is designed to wash away easily.  A heavy sneeze could eradicate your mark; lawn sprinklers or any rain stronger than a drizzle certainly will.  A heaping layer of flour will stand up to any but the most violent downpour, at least for a few hours.
  • If you need colored flour -- to differentiate walkers' and runners' trails, or if another hash went through your neighborhood recently, or to stand out against snow -- you can add drink mix powder, like Kool-Aid.  Rumor has it that tempera paint works, too.  Carpenters' chalk is a classic, but designed to withstand washing away, and may contain toxins.
  • When bushwhacking, really throw the flour around with your most liberal hand.  An ‘on’ every few yards is perfectly appropriate to help people navigate shrubbery and briars and seven million oak trees that all look exactly alike.
Four 'ons' in about ten meters.  Very helpful.

ON DISTANCE:  Valiant writes, “A traditional hash run lasts about an hour to 75 minutes.  For the average hasher (not to include the greyhounds), this means that a run should be no more than five miles total, not including false trails and backchecks.  This assumes an average pace of about ten-minute miles over a cross-country type course.  Every additional mile of false trails, etc. will add an additional ten minutes.  If the total course is seven miles, even the greyhounds will be lucky to finish in less than an hour, and the rest of the pack will need an extra 15-20 minutes.  And bushwacking and stream crossings add extra time.  When did I last hear a run was too short?  Frankly, I can't remember.”

Causing runners to pass out on trail is bad.  Very bad.

If your trail crosses over itself, be very, very careful marking.  Ideally, you should post a co-hare or your own self at the cross-over point, either to guide people in the correct direction, or to erase the first-direction marks after the pack crosses and set the second-direction ones.  From one veteran hasher:  “Trails that cross over themselves are a recipe for disaster.  I've seen it too many times.”

In any except the most clement weather, save any challenging water crossings for the end of the trail.  No one likes to run five miles in the freezing cold with wet feet.

This water crossing was less than a mile from the On In, and on a very clement day,
when people were happy to get their feet wet.

“Keep turning them back on themselves.”  Put a check at most or all intersections, and try unexpected directions:  through a parking garage, a culvert, across an irate neighbor’s lawn.  Ha ha, not really that last one.  Thanks for the Mammaries once asked a neighbor’s permission to send the pack across his lawn, and the guy said, “Is that a hash?  Why not send them through the house, instead?”  Because hashers get really confused when the on’s seem to direct them through a residence, that’s why, but it was fun and the guy was Bill and he came to GFH3 pretty regularly for a year or two after that.

Don’t be afraid to get creative.  It is just silly that no one thought to do an all-backchecks hash until Tastycakes executed the idea very successfully in 2012 or thereabouts.  We've had a couple of trails with brief stints on the Metro, and occasional A to Bs, which require a vehicle to transport people's gear to the On In and to transport them back to the starting point to collect their own vehicles.

Use plenty of flour to ensure a not-shitty trail.

If you have a gorgeous trail that requires asking people to run just a bit longer than you think right, you may be able to do an EAGLE/TURKEY SPLIT, and allow some people to come in quicker while others do more work in return for a fabulous view, fascinating culvert or daring tumble over a steep cliff.  If you can't figure out how to make a split work, invite a creative and experienced co-hare to come scout with you and help develop something.

WATER STOPS:  In very hot or very humid weather, a water stop is very welcome.  You can cache a supply of drinks somewhere on trail, picking up leftovers and empties later, or drive out with a trunk full of bottles and meet the pack somewhere in the middle of your trail.

THE BRIEF:  Warn people if there's lots of poison ivy, so they can wear tights or long pants they ought to be wearing anyway given tick danger.  Tell them whether to count the backcheck.  Thank your co-hare.  And thank YOU for a lovely hash.  We so appreciate it.

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