For much of the story, Zinny is riven by internal conflict. She blames herself for both the death of her Aunt Jessie and her cousin Rose. Somehow Zinny needs to overcome her feelings of guilt if she's to move on with her life. Clearing up the old, overgrown trail behind the family home gives her an opportunity to do this. Zinny is deeply unsure of her place in the world, a feeling compounded by the tragic loss of her loved ones. Yet the old trail that runs through the woods situates her in a specific place, a place she can truly call home.
As she begins the lengthy process of uncovering the trail, Zinny also reveals previously hidden truths about herself and her family. In due course, the trail becomes a metaphor for the path of self-discovery along which Zinny travels throughout the story, and which enables her to overcome an internal conflict based on unwarranted feelings of guilt.