Can’t we all get along on the trails?
special to the daily
Someone is trying to sabotage me. This was the third time that I had removed the rocks and logs from the trail, only to return and find them all put back.
And this time, put back with vengeance. This was someone who knew how to play it smart, who knew how to mess with a mountain biker, using one simple tactic.
Place a log vertically down the center of a narrow trail, forcing riders to get off their bikes and walk. The only other feasible route ” going around and right through a bush, which is not cool.
What really bothered me though was earlier this spring I too had done a little maintenance on this trail. In May, it was a muddy stream of water and a single bike track had left a deep welt down the middle.
I blocked it off so bikes couldn’t ride it, but when it dried up a few weeks later, I built a path of rocks so that you could ride or walk down it and avoid leaving any ruts.
I was kind of surprised that someone else cared about this insignificant trail as much as I did. Not many people come here, as the trail is more the neighborhood dog-walking route for those of us who live along French Creek.
But I have slowly fallen in love with the network of gentle trails, which is home to some of the best wildflowers I have seen in Summit County. I’m embarrassed to admit that occasionally I’ll even weed in these woods ” more room for the wildflowers to expand.
I had a vision of an angry hiker, the one trail user who has a few good reasons to not like bikes. We go by too fast, we have trouble making eye contact and we leave bike tracks on their trails. (Go to http://www.imba.com/resources/science and read their results on why bikes do no more harm to trails than horses or feet.)
But this is just a small percentage of the hiking population. Whenever I get angry at the summer motorized users for the same reasons hikers have towards mountain bikers, I realize what a hypocrite I am.
Trail abuse is a constant worry of mine, but we need to stop pointing fingers and realize all user-groups are guilty, and education is the key.
My dream would be for us all to travel more gently through our woods, to make our number one priority leaving our backcountry as pristine as possible. I wish we would close trails down that need some TLC more often.
But it is not right for me to think that my golden rules should be everyone else’s. I try to put myself in other people’s shoes who don’t care about keeping the backcountry pristine, or who are mean enough to ambush my trail. Except this time, I was mad.
Jeffrey, my husband, was with me this morning. I grabbed the log and angrily pitched it into the woods. Jeffrey exclaimed, “What are you doing?”
“Someone keeps putting this log down so we can’t bike, and it’s really starting to bug me. This has gone on too long and the trail is dry! All that does is force the bike rider to make a new trail by going around. It is so annoying.”
I expected him to agree but instead he said “Ellen, that’s me who keeps putting the log there.”
We both looked at each other and laughed. I was caught steaming with anger towards my mystery saboteur, and it turned out to be the person I love more than anyone else.
When I took my anger out of the equation, I could see the method to my hubby’s madness. Though I think his behavior was a bit of overkill, because the trail was dry, I knew his intentions were good.
Sometimes all you need is to remove the negative thoughts and then you can see more objectively why people behave as they do. That is the first step toward finding solutions to make our backcountry enjoyable for all types of recreationists.
Ellen Hollinshead lives in Breckernridge and writes a biweekly column on the outdoors.
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