If you’ve ever encountered a bent tree while hiking, you may have simply happened upon a tree that was bowed by weather, disease or other natural causes. However, you might have stumbled upon an ancient trail marker created by Native Americans hundreds of years ago. Known as trail trees, these markers were used to designate trails, crossing points on streams, medicinal sites to find plants, and areas of significance like council circles.There are a few features that marker tree enthusiasts say can be used to distinguish them from naturally bent trees. They must, first of all, be old enough to have been alive when Native American tribes still lived in the area. The bend can’t be too far from the ground. They should indicate some sort of feature of the land, whether it’s a trail, a spring, or a place to ford a river.

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