"The Register" Blog

Official blog for "The Register" newsletter; containing articles and updates from the ATC about stewardship on the Appalachian Trail.

"The Register" Blog contains selected articles from The Register newsletter. You can view previous issues of The Register here.

Stomp Stobs Flashback!

by Morgan Sommerville

What is a stob? A stob is a stub of a branch or a stump of saplings left after trimming them out.

This article was originally printed in The Register May 1986.

Stomp Stobs graphic

“One of the most frequently overlooked maintenance and construction tasks is the removal of stobs. Stobs, for those who do now know them by this name, are the stubs of saplings, branches, and twigs left after trimming out the A.T. either during annual maintenance, or during Trail construction.

I have always been wary of stobs, but recently my fright has been heightened by the addition of my children on my hiking trips. My two older kids, ages 4 and 6, rarely walk on these hikes, generally running back and forth ahead of me on the Trail.And when they do walk, they rarely watch where they are going! This leads to a lot of falls, and stobs along the Trail greatly increase the potential for disaster.

Some of my stob phobia probably originates with an experience I had while thru-hiking the A.T., and the closest I came to death while on the Trail was as a result of stobs! I caught the loop of my shoelace on one stob which pitched me forward. My pack slid up over my head and pressed my throat inexorably down onto another! Only at the last split-second was I able to roll just far enough to the side to avoid my neck being impaled. As it was, I got a deep scratch, right over my jugular vein. (I now tie my shoes with a  square knot, but a pant leg could cause the same problem.) So, PLEASE, trim all sapling stumps flush with the ground, or better yet, dig them out entirely. (One exception to this: leave the entire tree, or a 4-6 ft. section during trail construction until the sapling is removed to provide extra leverage when digging out the stump.) PLEASE, trim all branches and twigs flush with the trunk or branch from which they are trimmed. Stumping stobs will stob stabbings of stunned steppers!

The USFS has a guide to pruning tree. In particular, pages 10-13 cover how to prune without damaging the tree.

It’s amazing how something so tiny can be a catalyst for something so major. Have your own stob encounter? Tell us about in the comments section below. 


Morgan Sommerville
Title Then:
ATC's Southern Regional Field Representative
Title Now: Southern Regional Director
based out of Asheville, N.C. 

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  1. Natrieifia Miller | Sep 26, 2016
    I also had an unpleasant encounter with a stob. After finishing a lesson during my Leave No Trace Master Educator course this summer, 2016, I stood to grab a snack from the top pouch of my pack. My pack was situated underneath a tree and I payed no attention as I bent to eagerly pull out my trailmix. No attention until my forehead collided right into a short stob protruding from the tree trunk. Lucky for me the stob in question wasn’t very sharp and it was my forehead not my eye. I’m pretty certain this stob was naturally occurring but it highlights the importance of proper brushing technique when performing trail maintenance and construction.

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