I am so fortunate to live where on any given day I can hook up with a friend and go for a ride. Not just any ride mind you but a ride that most people would spend a year planning and spend their hard-earned vacation time to do. All this in what I call my ‘back yard!’ Of course it’s a backyard necessitated by my job of testing ATVs and UTVs, and the products that go with them – but that’s another story I guess…
So it was that a good friend, Kenny and I had some time on our hand to explore an area where we had not gone before. That is always an exciting prospect and always an adventure!
The trail we chose did not let us down. It was a seldom-used trail that with only a couple distractions led us on an incredible 2-track journey. A journey that traversed side-hills, climbed some rather good distances through the aspens, dropped steeply into a distant stream and followed it to what was for us, a great lunch stop.
We continued exploring a few of the other side-trails in the area, one traveling tightly up through the dense aspens and pines, past a few mining relics, and along a ridge with those incredible views that bring people to the area. It was one of those trails that because it was ‘seldom used’ was almost completely free from the usual litter of beer cans and water bottles.
We had found a jewel of a trail for sure. It was with great expectations that we followed it onward and upward. What could be any better than this? Here was a 2-track trail with everything we could ask for. It was one of those trails where should we run across some liberal extreme environmentalist shouting how ATVs destroy the wilderness, we could poke them back in the chest, go toe-to-toe, nose-to-nose, and say, “Show me where the damage is? This trail is no different than any riding and hiking trails we’ve been on, and better than most!”
I spent a good many days of my life building hiking trails, including a connecting section of the famous Pacific Crest Trail. Even building a trail for hiker’s and horseback rider’s, the government’s requirements were that you needed to make enough clearance between trees and rocks and switchbacks that a sensible rider on an ATV could ride them without harm. That wasn’t their wording or intent, but my point is how big they required a simple hiking trail to be.
But I digress.
This was a great trail. One of my favorites. It was one of those trails that I feared telling anyone about because since it wasn’t marked a 50” trail I was sure if they knew about it, the ‘Wild Crowd’ would try to ride it in their 60”, long travel, race machines! And then it would be ruined. This great 2-track, scenic trail, free of trash and even tire damage from fast machines would be destroyed. Closed. Forever, thank you very much.
Wait a minute! What’s this? A gate? The trail’s closed from here on to motorized travel? Yikes! Look what they’ve done. Eeww, look what they’ve done! Ohhhh, look what they’ve all done….
It seems we had run upon a gate installed across the trail blocking it to all motorized forms of travel. In their effort to do that, the forest service had not just installed a gate and a sign, but also downed trees in an attempt to cover the trail and to hinder any possible circumnavigation around the gate. It was an ugly attempt to close what had been so far a perfect example of the perfect reason to leave these kinds of trails open for use by ATVs.
But it also seems that we weren’t the first to run across this seemingly newly installed deterrence. Someone else had been there prior and left their distaste for this closure by leaving an even uglier reminder of the type of people that come to ride these trails. The people that seem to either unwittingly or uncaringly help to bring about these trail closures in the first place.
Suddenly Kenny and I were looking at each other and wondering what shocked and irritated us more, the forest service’s closure of this incredible trail for what seemed like no reason, or the distasteful reminder of the people we are classified with as ‘trail riders’ or ‘ATVers!’
It would all make at least some sense if the trail defecators were there first and then the trail was closed. But this was more of a case of ‘we’ll show you why this trail should be closed!’
I just don’t understand – any of it. Add it to the list I guess.