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I'm on holiday near Sechelt right now, and have been hiking the trails and powerline right of ways. On several occasions I've come to the end of one trail, and can see the start again on the other side of a stream. Wading the stream is a piece of cake. The ravine on either side is often choked with blackberry canes. The dogs and I are NOT impressed with this, and at times I've backtracked a mile to find another route as being faster than doing 50 yards of canes.

How do other people deal with these beasts? Machete? Weedeater? High explosive air strike?

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    I'd agree with James. It also is more LNT. The exception would be if there is supposed to be a connection between trails, which just was overgrown from neglect or lack of use. – topshot Dec 26 '18 at 13:30
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My absolute favorite tool for getting through blackberry canes is a serrated curved blade. There doesn't seem to be a great English name for this tool - it's sometimes called a Japanese gardening knife, gardening sickle, Japanese sickle, or similar.

Japanese gardening sickle

Getting through blackberries is still work - but this is the best way I've found, makes it easy to cut and move the canes one-handed. Best of all, the serrated blade can be used to grab and flick the canes without needing to grab them directly.

After starting to cut my way in, I'll usually step on canes, and slice them off at the bottom. If they're especially large, the tool can be used to cut them smaller or move them out of the way. As they're cut, they'll tend to lay down, and you can walk over them. A huge mass of blackberry can originate from just a few canes in a small clump. It's not fast, but not painfully slow either. In a half-hour, you can make it a few hundred feet or so.

I hesitate to bring this up since it's off-topic - but since nobody else has mentioned it - himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) is a nasty and common invasive plant in these parts. Volunteers spend thousands and thousands of hours grubbing it out and removing it as part of trail maintenance and land restoration. No land manager is going to cry over it, especially if you're brushing out an existing trail.

Taken literally, leave no trace principles say that a baby English holly sapling found in the woods should be left alone. In the Pacific Northwest, that's not good stewardship.

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    There's a similar tool in English, the Yorkshire Billhook which I suspect is much heavier but it's really good for clearing brush and undergrowth. The long handled version is basically a polearm. – Separatrix Jan 5 at 20:32
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Going around is the best solution. You can wack your way through with a machete, but it is not easier. The vines are really long, you would need to cut a tunnel, where you cut both ends, it is a lot of work.

When you cut them, you are cutting a long fairly stable thorn covered vine, it becomes two no longer stable thorn covered vines, one of which is most certainly going to reach out and grab you.

Even when picking black berries (very good eating) most people do not chop their way into center to get the berries in a wild patch. It just not worth it.

My Grandparents had a blackberry patch and they would maintain a path to the center, but it was a labor of ongoing work. As I recall they used planks that they could pickup and drop on the new growth then walk on.

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    Cutting down berries to the ground is something I've spent doing countless hours as part of volunteering work as well as at home, and I wholeheartedly agree: the amount of energy it takes to cut through even a couple of yards is usually going to be greater than walking around. Other than that: with some practice a scythe (austrian model or similar) seems the fastest to get through, while at the same time the least chance of contact with the thorns because of the reach. – stijn Dec 26 '18 at 19:03
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    The particular situation is a local power line right of way. The power company maintains a track for servicing the line, but in places the line crosses a creek. The maintenance road then stops short, and comes in from another forestry road. Ravines are filled with either blackberry, or salal. Salal is only difficult. Blackberry is impossible. How do timber cruisers, forestry surveyors, ecologists travel where there are no trails in this type of terrain? – Sherwood Botsford Jan 1 at 16:04
  • salal is commercially harvested from the woodlands. Cutting it without a license is wrong on many levels. but it is easy enough to push your way through without damage to it or you. blackberry bushes are on the borders of everything timber cruisers, forestry surveyors, ecologists would be checking on at a given time. There is almost no need to cross them, going around is the option. See the parts of my answer here about power line roads everyone who has a job to do in the forest has a vehicle, they drive to the other side. – James Jenkins Jan 2 at 11:21
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Answer so far:

James is correct -- when possible go around. Move between clumps.

Crossing powerline ravines, it can help to go up or down stream to wooded terrain which shades them out.

If you must pass -- usually a short stretch to connect existing clear areas --

A: Bring leather work gloves. While welding gloves are a bit excessive, having ones with more cuff than the common glove will save your wrists. B: Wear a heavyweight nylon or canvas jacket. Tips of thorns can often penetrate this, so having something thick underneath may help. Along with this, your lightweight nylon wind pants don't cut it. Military surplus battle dress uniform pants are a cotton synthetic blend that are tough as nails, and being a blend don't stay wet as long as jeans do. C: Pair of bypass pruning shears. These allow a more finessed approach and have fewer ends swinging about. D: Wear eye protection.

If you have a known patch to deal with, it may be worth experimented with a small gas operated hedge trimmer if just clearing access. Stihl sells a "clearing saw" which is in effect a weed eater on steroids with a head designed for the abuse it gets with thick stems and rough terrain.

This level takes the fun out of hiking however.

In passing so far, it's worth traveling 5-20 times as far to avoid the critters, just from a time perspective, and not counting the price in blood.

  • I am not sure this is a good answer, recommending bringing power tools to cut vegetation on public and/or private property is possibly illegal, and cleary at odds with leave no trace. The power line right a way is maintained by the power company. By design if they want to get to the other side of the waterway/blackberries, they drive around and cross the water at ecologically appropriate location. For the occasional vine, gloves are not worth it. The thorns are well separated and it is easy to grasp a vine with your fingers between the thorns, and move it aside as you pass. – James Jenkins Jan 2 at 13:25

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