The Outsider: ‘You’ve got to be kind’ on the trails
Trail etiquette is a little like interstate etiquette: You can know all the rules and regulations and guidelines, but if you just don’t give a damn about everyone else barreling down the road at 70-plus miles per hour, someone is bound to get angry, or defensive or hurt.
“Right now it’s nice and quiet and the trails are drying out, but two weeks from now we’ll see that influx of visitors and our trails are suddenly packed,” Tony Overlock with the Summit County open space department told me recently. “That really happens through July and August, and then things quiet again in September.”
In other words, the true high season is right around the corner, and, as always, it coincides with the best conditions on local hiking and biking trails. Every year, Overlock and his crew field questions and concerns about etiquette (aka common decency) on the trails, and, every year we at the Summit Daily try our best to help folks from all user groups make the most of our incredible backyard. (In case you missed it, mountain bike columnist Mike Zobbe gave his annual trail Nazi rant in Friday’s paper.)
Nazi rant or no, decency is the trick. First, remember that we’re lucky enough to live here. It’s as old as the bumper sticker on the beer cooler in every bar, but the life of a local can be better than a visitor’s vacation. So, why let frustration and a little inexperience ruin a gorgeous day on the trail for you and the visitors who are only here once a year, or even once a lifetime?
“The big thing is to just be nice and courteous,” Overlock says. “Whatever you’re doing — running or hiking or looking for birds — everyone is out there to have a good time. Just think of how much fun you were having a few minutes ago. Just saying thank you or hello when you pass on the trails, just anything that says, ‘I appreciate your time.’”
Second, know the basics. Uphill travelers always have the right of way, even when you’re flying down rocky singletrack. If someone traveling uphill decides to step out of the way, try to at least make eye contact and, as Overlock says, smile. It’s something we teach kindergarteners, just like “sharing is caring” and “don’t pick your nose,” but flashing them pearly whites really can diffuse a tense situation.
If this sounds like a bunch of preachy bulls***, I’ll turn to someone whose preachy bulls*** has won awards. In “God Bless You, Miss Rosewater,” Kurt Vonnegut as the protagonist writes a simple baptism prayer.
“There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — God d*** it, you’ve got to be kind.”
Words to live by on the trail, I-70 — anywhere.
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