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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Treading Lightly

"We ride to have a great time, not to make great time." (An adaptation of a comment from Sally, in the movie Cars!)

When it comes to the promotion of trail systems there seems to be endless amounts of energy and resources spent getting people to come see it and ride it and far less thought given to who exactly is being invited to experience that particular paradise. It seems more than short-sighted, perhaps even irresponsible to promote a riding area without giving due thought to the impact that promotion has on the environment.

Whoa! Wait a minute! What's this(?), an off roader that's worried about the environment? Yeah, right, sure. Sounds like an oxymoron! Well, it shouldn't be. Us so-called 'off-roaders' should be very concerned about the environment that we enjoy. We need to be increasingly careful in our use of the great back country that we love to explore so that we can continue to enjoy well it into the future - the future where our kids and grandkids will be able to enjoy it as well! The key word to remember here is 'sustainability!' Write it down. Commit it to memory. Tell a friend!

It seems rather obvious that some trail users are considerably more harmful on the trails, to the trails, to the surrounding areas, and therefore most specifically to our desire to keep our wonderful trail systems open! Who you ask are these harmful users? It seems so obvious it shouldn't need to be said.

But I will anyway.

First let me say it's not necessarily always a 'who' that's bad for the trails, but perhaps more often a 'what'. And like in so many cases, these are generalities with which I speak. That means that there are exceptions to each. So if you're reading this and you're the 'exception' don't tell me, tell all the others that you are the exception from!

* Speed is bad. Speed of course is a relative term, but there is a point where too much speed is not only extremely dangerous to other trail users but also to the trail itself, as the spinning and sliding tires dig up the trails causing more dust, more ruts, and more erosion. Speed and dust is also known to be a rather unpleasant greeting to other trail users.

I've seen a couple good takes on speed measurement. One friend said that if his cap wanted to blow off his head he was riding too fast to be wearing a cap. Interesting. My brother used to say that he rode to see things so he rides slow enough that he can see them.

* So if speed is bad that certainly must mean that sport quads are bad. Although it's not impossible to enjoy scenic trails on a sport machine, the typical sport ATV rider is usually more concerned with enjoying the thrill of riding than being thrilled, enjoying the ride.

* And so that 'speed thing' must also apply to most motorcycles. They necessarily require more speed to ride and their single rear tire spins most of the time leaving a smaller and more pronounced rut. Someone once mentioned to me that the fewer driven wheels a vehicle has, the more damage it does to the terrain. It may also be said that the fewer driven wheels a vehicle has, the less the operator is looking around enjoying the scenery.

* Aggressive tires are also destructive to the trails. We've tested plenty of different tires and types of tires over the years and the outcome was always that deep-lugged mud and snow tires were not only unnecessary for regular trail riding but not even necessary for mild mud or snow conditions. Of course non-spinning aggressive tires may well do less damage than the mad spinning of more regular treaded tires.

Something I always think about is how you can ride an ATV slowly, without spinning the tires across even the most fragile terrain and they barely leave a mark.

* Noise is probably one of the most irritating invasions an off-roader can impose on others. Loud machines are irritating to everyone from other campers nearby, home and property owners you pass along the way, and of course the wildlife. And let's not forget to mention the interruption to the serenity of anyone stopped along the trail enjoying the scenery.

* Trash. It never ceases to amaze me how selfish or just plain ignorant many people are concerning leaving their trash along the trails. Do they not see it or do they just not care about seeing it. So I'll assume that those not concerned with the beauty of our trails are not concerned with riding beautiful trails. In which case I say you should stay home.

Did I sound mean here? Selfish? If you're offended it is most likely you that I'm talking about here. 

Let me just say one more time that the key to being able to continue to ride our trails is sustainability. Keep them clean, keep them environmentally friendly, and keep the other trail users happy.

But of course, I imagine if you are reading this I'm preaching to the choir - so-to-speak.

Happy trails -
or should I say "God Bless our 'happy trails'?"


  1. For so many people it seems like they can't read and so they ride right around the "NO MOTORIZED VEHICLES BEYOND THIS POINT" signs. And they probably think to themselves, just this once won't hurt, BUT IT DOES. All too often I come upon somebody riding their quad out through the middle of some wet meadow. I always tell them, "STAY ON THE TRAIL OR STAY OFF THE MOUNTAIN!!!! PLEASE DON'T MESS IT UP FOR THE REST OF US!"

    All to often I have to remind myself of these things as well. It is always tempting to find a way around that downed tree instead of taking the time to cut it and move it. It is very tempting to drive around those snow banks that are slow to melt in late June and early July. Its tempting to wrap your winch cable around trees instead of using a tree saving strap.

    And Doug,

    Even the choir needs reminders. It's no different than reading the Lord's words in the scriptures, you can never get too much.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    And God surely has blessed our beautiful trails, lets give thanks and respect His gift to us, instead of desecrating it.

  2. Doug

    Trial etiquette is something that certainly is lacking on the trail; it seems more of the society we live in has turned to me, me, me and not think of others around them. Point and case, YouTube distributes bad behavior in individuals and groups doing stupid things that are rude and harmful, and somehow there is a belief that this is acceptable.

    I tried to emit good trail etiquette as I will slow down to reduce the dust and there are times when I see a large group I will pull off the trail and let the large group pass. However, very seldom does anyone else replicate the same trail etiquette to me.

    Recently I was riding on the Shoshone trial when a couple of sport quads zipped around me to race down the trail. At the time I didn’t think much about until I came to a horse back rider who was thrown from his horse. I stopped and offered assistance but the rider refused any help from me. I felt bad for the horse back rider as he didn’t deserve this, he had every right to be on the trail as anyone else; why do we allow our society to behave this way. Is it because we won’t say anything to those who want to promote their selves as total morons and yet we will shake our heads in disapproval for such actions. I don’t get it.

    I agree, you’re preaching to the choir, but it never hurts to remind all of us that there are other users of the trail.



  3. I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but we'd better enjoy the trails in public lands while we can. No good can come from the prevalent misuse and abuse of trails in the national forest, etc. I love riding slowly and enjoying the scenery as well as having fun riding a trail. I think your points are well made. We should tread lightly!

  4. Sometimes I wonder why we even tread lightly to tell you the truth. Last year we went riding on an ultimately scenic 2-track trail only to see it closed off at one place to motorized travel. Within a month a forest 'dis'service controlled burn got out of control and burned the whole area. If that wasn't bad enough, they went in after the fire with huge dozers and absolutely destroyed the area in the name of drainage and erosion control.

    And I am left to wonder why I didn't go ahead and ride the closed trail anyway when I had the chance. I mean what harm could it have done compared to what the forest 'dis'service did?

  5. I was talking to a guest here at the resort last night and they told me when they bought their AC 650 2-up that their first ride was with friends that had been riding for some time. He told me they traveled 76 miles in 4 hours that first ride and they didn’t get to see a single thing along the way. They both agreed that’s not the way to enjoy their new ATV.

    Now they ride every opportunity they get and distance has nothing to do with their riding agenda. They take their time and stop along the way to take pictures, eat lunch and just take in as much of Mother Nature as they can.

    Speed: Recently I hear more comments about people almost colliding with motorcycles head-on than anything else, mainly due to the speed that people ride their motorcycles. The next issue is the newer "sportier" SxSs all decked out with "look at me" painted and bolted on all over them!

    Aggressive Tires: I might fall into this category. While I don’t have great big oversized “mud” tires I do love my STI Black Diamond XTRs. On the other hand I do know that the original tires that came on my ATV would take me most everywhere I want to go. And it looks like I might get to try my XTRs in some snow today.

    Noise: Man I HATE those dual fart-pipes people put on their Rhinos!!!! They should be outlawed along with the rest of them. The people driving them don’t have to listen to them like everyone around them does.

    Garbage: Cut and paste my youtube links. They express my feelings quite well.

    Garbage left behind by inconsiderate pigs is the worst and most disrespectful thing they can do.

    Garbage; let’s talk about something else – the veins in my neck are starting to stick out and my face is turning red.