Backcountry Meetings

8:44 p.m. on October 23, 2007 (EDT)
(Guest)

I was wondering if someone can explain the dynamics of meeting people in the backcountry.

I guess it is obvious that I am new to backpacking. I have done a lot of car camping and explored the area on day trips. I have been fortunate enough not to run into anyone.

Anyway, I have been reading the forum trying to decide if I am going to take a firearm with me when I go. I don't want to debate the pro's and con's of guns. There are plenty of threads about that already. In the other threads people mention "bad experiences" that they have had when meeting strangers and I was curious to know what happened and how it was handled.

I live in Baltimore and have been the victim of crime one way or another at least once every year. My wife is a prosecutor and we watch a lot of those true crime stories plus I get to hear all of the strange and wicked people do to each other here in the area. I just don't want to be a situation out in the middle of nowhere, at least the police are around in the city - even if it takes them hours to respond to a call.

9:24 p.m. on October 23, 2007 (EDT)
25 reviewer rep
123 forum posts

I have never felt threatend by a person in the wild. I don't think you need a gun. in fact 99% of people i've encounterd in the wilds hyave been a joy to meet! I think most criminals who are out to hurt people go where there is people not in the woods. Baltimore even with the police is probably 50 times more dangerous!

9:30 p.m. on October 23, 2007 (EDT)
25 reviewer rep
123 forum posts

I did have one bad expiriance! It was with another Thru-hiker in Damasicus VA. The man was possing as a thru-hiker and stealing peoples gear at the hostels. He was styaying at "The Place" and when I arrived everyone warned me with stories like "I cought him tring on my Boots" He had on my shirt etc. so I left! I saw him again on the trail in northern VA and he had all brand new gear, but he was so out of shape from hanging around in towns that he realy posed no threat.

10:35 p.m. on October 23, 2007 (EDT)
(Guest)

I take this thread to mean that theft is more of a problem in the woods than violence.

11:07 p.m. on October 23, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
347 forum posts

Violence in the backcountry is rare, but it does happen. I have heard of people being robbed at gunpoint far in the backcountry. But it is much less likely than in any town. The long walk discourages all but the most determined criminals.

I use the same argument about wild animal attacks when someone tells me they would never go backpacking like I do because they are afraid of being attacked by a bear or mountain lion. I simply tell them that they have a much greater chance of being attacked by another human in town than by an animal in the wild. You are generally safer in the wilderness.

I used to carry a gun when backpacking, but don't do it very often any more, mainly because of the weight. I do carry pepper spray.

10:15 a.m. on October 24, 2007 (EDT)
2 reviewer rep
8 forum posts

I have never thought about theft. I have been thinking about getting a Bivy Sack, but now I wonder if I shouldn't get a solo tent and keep my gear in with me.

11:19 a.m. on October 24, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
169 forum posts

most of the "dynamics" of meeting people in the backcountry that I've experienced have been a friendly hello, perhaps a casual "where you heading, how long have you been out" type of question, maybe sharing some food or hanging out and talking while camping for the night - can't say that I've ever felt the need to carry a handgun with me for personal protection.

If you do opt to carry a handgun, are you planning to use it to protect your stuff? Let's face it - you'll have a darned hard time justifying shooting someone (or even threatening them with a gun) for trying to steal a shirt or sleeping bag.

If there are a lot of people around when I'm camping (a situation I try to avoid, personally), I just keep track of my stuff - I don't leave it scattered around the campsite.

Yeah - you'll run into people with sticky fingers once in a while - but if you keep the gear you're not using out of easy reach I doubt you'll have any real problems. Consider the ramifications if your gun gets ripped off while you're in camp - you could be indirectly responsible for a criminal getting hold of a handgun, registered to you - never a good situation. You'd also better have your carry permits and the like in order for the various counties and states you'll be hiking through AND for any state or national parks you may be in.
Also - if you have a gun and the criminal has a gun - which one of you is more apt to pull the trigger? I just see it as a tool for escalation - are you really ready, willing and trained to shoot another person? If you're going to arm yourself make darned sure you are.

As for using a bivy sack or tarp - keep the pack by your head and tie a couple feet of parachute cord to it your sleeping bag or something so if someone tries to mess with it it alerts you - if your food is in your pack it should be hanging from a tree anyhow - not sitting on the ground.

11:58 a.m. on October 24, 2007 (EDT)
26 reviewer rep
23 forum posts

I have to agree that so most of the time it's always a friendly greeting or say "how far to the next goal" or "The weather is great today." In my case, I've never had any experience since my stomping grounds are mostly in the Sierras and most people wouldn't drive that far and hike that deep just to steal. I do carry a knife with me all the time for camp tasks but also to protect myself. I generally go with another person for further protection. Like they say "There is strength in numbers"

8:09 p.m. on October 24, 2007 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,329 reviewer rep
5,258 forum posts

In my 6+ decades in the woods and hills (and deserts and tundra and glaciers etc), I have never carried a gun (or bow or crossbow) except when hunting (which I gave up in my teens after an experience when another hunter shot at me, thinking I was a deer (I had gotten my buck about an hour before and was working it back to camp). I heard about other "sound shot" incidents during those hunting days, too.

But in non-hunting areas, I have never had a bad incident with any person or animal (except the mouse or mice that got into a bag of gorp and exchanged some raisins for "processed raisins" - but that's another story). The closest I came was when I was the adult advisor for a group of scouts on a weekend backpack training for a week-long backpack, and we encountered a rather scruffy looking fellow. Although suspicious, we soon discovered that he had somehow gotten separated from his party 3 days before, and had been wandering lost (no map, no food, nothing to drink except 2 cans of Coke) during that time. He knew the name of the goal of their hike and just wanted directions. We happened to be going there and got him reunited with his companions (who had not reported him missing or done any searching - for 3 days!).

Wait! No, I have had several bad encounters! All of them were with members of my own party. Several were as the adult advisor on a Scout backpack, when one or more of the scouts rebelled against the "health and safety" "dictates" of the adult (example - "don't play Ultimate Frisbee on a 30 degree talus slope - you are likely to twist an ankle" to which the retort was, and I am not joking, "you are infringing on our first amendment rights!"). Another was on Denali when by the 3rd day out, all of us were asking each other about Crazy James (as we called him behind his back) "Who invited him on this climb, anyway?" - he came close to killing one of the other members of the party through his carelessness.

But no, I have never had a bad incident with any strangers in the wilderness. In my river running, I have never encountered a "Deliverance" situation, although several of my runs were on rivers in the Deep South. Closest to that was on a bike trip on Cape Cod. Barb and I rode into a private campground (that was open to the public) to camp for the night. The owner's dog came out snarling and snapping. We defended outselves by putting our bikes between us and the dog and yelling at the dog to go away. The owner told us we could not camp there because "You hurt my dog's feelings!" Ummm, but your dog was trying to bite us "My dog would never bite anyone!" We rode on and snuck around the gate into a state campground that had not yet opened for the season. But that's not a wilderness story.

Oh, I forgot. A marmot got into my pack and tried to steal my food once (in Canada).

No, almost universally friendly greetings and exchange of information on conditions farther along the trail. Some very exhausted folks sometimes just grunt "hello" and stagger onward under their too-heavy packs. Never any threats, no drawn knives or guns, no losses to theft, no significant losses to animals. And that includes seeing plenty of bear (black mostly, but griz in Alaska and Canada), coyote, and the occasional bobcat or lion (I'm more worried about moose than bears, frankly - they can be onery).

10:51 a.m. on October 25, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
169 forum posts

I've wondered, from time to time, if an individuals paranoia regarding interpersonal relationships and meetings are, to some extent, manifested by their attempt to supress certain conscious or subconscious urges of their own to engage in socially unacceptable behavior. This is a broad generalization and isn't intended to target anyone participating on this thread, just a curiosity of mine.

After all, we tend to despise in others those offensive traits which we recognize in ourselves ...

2:38 p.m. on October 25, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
77 forum posts

"B" said:

I live in Baltimore and have been the victim of crime one way or another at least once every year.

 


If this is true, I would really look at moving. How many times have you been a victim? Do you honestly think carrying a gun will save you from being a victim or perhaps carrying a gun will even acerbate your ordeal even more?

 

 

Fred wrote:
I've wondered, from time to time, if an individuals paranoia regarding interpersonal relationships and meetings are, to some extent, manifested by their attempt to supress certain conscious or subconscious urges of their own to engage in socially unacceptable behavior.


Not trying to hijack this thread, but a LOT of criminals that are incarcerated today are because of this statement. They were abused, mistreated etc. Even some of our soldiers that are coming back home are getting involved in crimes along with 4 times the suicide rate when they were otherwise "normal" kids before going over to the sandbox..

3:15 p.m. on October 25, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
169 forum posts

FMD wrote: "Do you honestly think carrying a gun will save you from being a victim or perhaps carrying a gun will even acerbate your ordeal even more?"

Bingo - feeling like Rambo without the training is a tragedy waiting to happen. And again, what if the gun gets taken (or, as he's from Baltimore, he decides to hike through Cunningham Falls park, which is near Camp David - I suspect that the secret service folks would take a rather dim view ...).

3:55 p.m. on October 25, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
77 forum posts

Remember these words when you purchase a gun:

Intended Uses, Unintended Consequences.

3:55 p.m. on October 25, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
408 forum posts

Had a couple of ugly little run-ins when I was a kid in Montana. Once was on a reservation, the other in the Bitterroots. Both times we were armed, and the other party knew it. Have no idear what would have happened. Hopefully nothing.

Yeah, things happen. But, I think its pretty rare.

Got shot at once in West Virginia. Was after work, and, went for a run in the back woods. Must have crossed over on or near some private land (near as I could figure). Shotgun, probably a "punkin ball". Quite close to me. Never saw the guy. Probably just a message.

I dunno. When I was a kid, used to carry a firearm all the time in the woods. Now, I hardly ever do. Can't imagine what good it would do me ultimately. Just doesn't seem practical.

Used to hunt a fair bit. Was always nervous about being around other people when I was armed, and I knew they probably weren't. Seems a bit intimidating, and, that's not the vibe I'd like to put out when meeting and/or seeing other folks in the woods.

-Brian in SLC

5:21 p.m. on October 25, 2007 (EDT)
(Guest)

Thanks for all of the replies. In hearing what everyone has to say I will more than likely leave the gun at home and just depend on a good knife...just in case. It was a good point that I could injure someone else, I never thought of it in that fashion. Plus in running various scenarios by my wife I also couldn't come up with a situation in which I wouldn't end up in jail protecting my gear. Given my proficiency with a weapon and my self defense training I don't think that the gun would be taken off of me, but I'm not cocky enough to think that it couldn't happen.

As for the packing through Camp David comment, I wasn't planning on wearing it as if I was in the wild wild west - but I appreciate your fantastic point of view none-the-less. You are correct in your observation of how the authorities would feel.

Something I never thought of until this thread was theft, so that is something I will have to ponder when I bed down.

With that being said, the crimes I have been a victim of have been non-personal and non-violent crime. Believe me, I don't look like a target and have already done the martial arts things - So I am more than prepared to handle myself. I just like that extra bit of security, you can never be too careful, right? I was referring to mainly car theft and the likes. Not something I can really prevent in the city. I do have a club and an alarm but I wonder how well they really deter. The events while not detrimental to my health, have made me a little weary of strangers in my personal space. Couple my bad experiences with my wife's line of work and I would say that I am a shade paranoid. A lady I work with said she heard her neighbor's car the other morning but was too tired to investigate. Anyway I guess that is for another forum.

As for the suggestion to move...I have already been planning to move away from the zoo (city) as soon as I can. I have a few classes to finish before I can leave. As soon as they are completed I am gone.

I am still interested in hearing about the strange meetings people have had out on the trails and more importantly the outcome of the meetings...just given my little experience in this area I know that not everyone in the woods is playing with a full deck.

6:06 p.m. on October 25, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
7 forum posts

Bad things can happen anywhere and sometimes do, but none of the near-miss experiences in my life (and I, like many others, have had several) happened in the backcountry. If you limit, curtail or miss backcountry experiences as a result of living fearfully, I can assure you that you will miss some of the most rewarding and memorable times of your life. As an aside, some of my most potentially perilous encounters have occurred while I was in a vehicle, when I was armed while hunting or when I was at a boat launch, in each case where unskilled, unruly and/or just plain obnoxious people likely using alcohol were involved. Few backpackers carry booze (maybe some an occasional bottle of chardonnay) or guns--just too much weight.

6:31 p.m. on October 25, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
171 forum posts

B:

If you start with the premise that you need to protect yourself from others on the trail, you increase the chance that you will need to do so.

Although we walk through city streets without greeting the people surrounding us, in my experience when meetings occur on a backcountry trail it's expected that greetings will be shared. Even a simple hello is adequate.

I have never had anything but pleasant meetings with other hikers on the trail. However, I have had less than pleasant meetings with bicyclists--mostly due to my reluctance to step off the trail when they come screaming around a bend or down a hill. But that's not in the backcountry and even then there has never been any threat of physical violence, although I do confess to taking comfort in the presence of my 6-foot long hardwood hiking staff.

5:58 a.m. on October 26, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
77 forum posts

"B": wrote:

It was a good point that I could injure someone else, I never thought of it in that fashion. Plus in running various scenarios by my wife I also couldn't come up with a situation in which I wouldn't end up in jail protecting my gear.

And then he wrote:

Given my proficiency with a weapon and my self defense training I don't think that the gun would be taken off of me, but I'm not cocky enough to think that it couldn't happen.


If you had training with a firearm, regardless if it is a concelled weapons carry permit, a pota class, NRA class or a hunting class for a permit, they cover the possibility of consquesence of carrying a gun. There is ALWAYS a possibility that you can injured or kill someone or yourself when you carry a gun. Very basic and common sense.

2:47 p.m. on October 26, 2007 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,329 reviewer rep
5,258 forum posts

A couple of comments -

One worry I have about this thread is the focus on "bad" encounters in the backcountry. I am glad most of the posts noted that the vast majority of encounters are good one. In my recent sojourn in the Dolomites, I was reminded of the custom of mountain hikers in Europe to greet everyone they encounter on the trail, often stopping to chat a while (fun, when you only know a few words of each other's languages). At the least, there is a mumbled "Grace Gott" (short for "may the Grace and Blessings of God be with you in your travels through the mountains", basically in German, but used in all the Alpine areas, French, German, Italian, and even Ladino and Romansch). Doesn't matter if you are religious or not (even Soviets back when I started climbing and trekking in the Alps in the early 60s used the greeting). If someone had a problem, everyone was quick to help or go for help. In other words, very different from the worried, paranoid image conveyed by the "tell me of your bad and dangerous encounters" request.

Second comment is that during my life (and I am a card-carrying "elderly", after all, so it's a few decades), I have had far more bad and dangerous encounters in cities and urban areas than in the woods and hills. Yes, I have had my cars broken into and things taken (all of low monetary value), but only in the city. Yes, I have encountered would-be muggers, including some presumably armed, all in cities (but none actually carried through - when I was a professor at Boston University, almost half of the faculty and grad students in my department were mugged during the 4 years on or within a few blocks of campus). Yes, I have had places double-charge my credit card (a couple of gas stations and a couple stores, all in cities), and I have had credit cards counterfeited right down to the mag stripe (including the one that turned up in Japan with 4 dinners in Tokyo at something over $800 for each dinner!!! American Express caught it quickly, so no cost to me).

Point here is that cities are far more dangerous than anything I have encountered in wilderness areas.

5:35 p.m. on October 26, 2007 (EDT)
TRAILSPACE STAFF
234 reviewer rep
938 forum posts

Great points, Bill. The vast majority of my encounters in the backcountry have been positive. I make a point of greeting everyone I meet on the trail with a hello and a smile. It's usually returned, and sometimes leads to an interesting conversation. Occasionally I'll cross paths with a group who ignores my greeting and just keeps moving, eyes firmly on the ground. I feel sad for them -- clearly they're more habituated to sidewalks than footpaths. But I've never had a negative reaction.

Here in New England, especially at this time of year, you can pretty much count on other hikers to share the latest Red Sox score. I've been the recipient or source of scores and game recaps on the Vermont's Long Trail, atop New Hampshires Franconia Ridge, and just two weeks ago I spent a couple nights backpacking in Maine's Baxter State Park while the Red Sox were playing in the ALCS. On both Saturday and Sunday we met other hikers who were happy to fill us in on the details of the games.

Last summer we were backpacking in the Uintas and planned to camp by a pond in a high basin. There was one other party camped by the pond, and soon after we arrived one of them came over to introduce himself. As he drew near, we both burst out laughing. It turned out to be a business associate -- one of only a handful of people I know in Utah. He and his wife were celebrating their anniversary, but were generous enough to invite us to their campsite to share in their anniversary desert.

So you never know who you'll meet out there. It's a small, small -- and mostly friendly -- world.

7:21 p.m. on October 26, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
1 forum posts

B, the club doesn't work.

Last person I met in the woods asked me if I had extra moleskin. I did and gave it to them. They ended up camping in the same designated area as me and cooked dinner for me that night.

Most people you meet while backpacking are just like you
( I guess that can be good or bad!).

3:33 a.m. on October 29, 2007 (EDT)
10 reviewer rep
471 forum posts

Like Martin said. Most people are exactly like me out there.
I think that is good. Maybe some would not.. :)

I've met a few curmudgeons, but certainly not dangerous ones.

You will have a chance to meet as many different kinds of people as there may be. I can't imagine why any social deviant would go that far away and take that much effort to cause harm. It is too easy to be a predator in a city with running water and warm beds.

If they take my kit, they can't walk as fast with all that stuff as I can catching up without it. If they are that far in they can't carry any more anyway.

One caveat. The farther you get away from organized campgrounds and the availability of beer for "the common folk" the farther you leave most of civilizations social problems behind.

Along the trail, I can almost always strike up a conversation with anybody on the trail -- especially if they are coming up hill. Most, unless they are trying to make up miles, will chat, go over maps, discuss options. I have many email addresses of people I did not know minutes earlier. Most will enjoy your company, for a short time, in their camp. You should ask first.

What I do consider to be very dangerous are those who carry weapons on trails in the the lower 48. I don't camp anywhere near them and avoid them like the plague. They really are the 'different' ones in that setting. I suspect that is what they would rather anyway. All of the 'others' I meet backpacking (including the bears) do not necessarily pose a lethal threat to me.

Things become a bit simpler and traditional. When my wife and I were returning from one 10 day hike and others were leaving the next morning for the same area, we were 'courted'. They wanted to know about water availability, water crossings, best camp areas, condition of trails, pass snow packs and other things of utmost importance to them. My wife commented later that those were the same questions that would have been asked over the millenia of returning 'scouts', or others that were knowledgeable.

And it is international. For example, we walked UK's Coast to Coast in the 'wrong way' - to the west. Everybody we met along the trail were pleasant, interesting and interested. And there were hundreds over the two weeks.

In mountains in other countries, as soon as they found out I was a Yank, things picked up socially. Not always the same in the cities.

7:32 a.m. on October 29, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
391 forum posts

I frequently carry a bear gun here in British Columbia as the number of Grizzlies and attacks has increased enormously over the past decade. I am an avid hunter, primarily a backpack hunter and carrying a rifle during the off-season is good training for the actual season.

I do not carry a pistol, although I have and am qualified to do so and can re-new my carry permit should I wish to. I also strongly stress that I have VERY thorough training and extensive experience with firearms and also working solo in remote wilderness. Generally, I do not think that most people should carry when backpacking and it is now illegal for non-Canadian backpackers to do so here, as it should be.

Guns are just another tool, as is my pack, sleeping roll or knife, no more, no less. I never carry unless my 50+ years of western-northern Canadian wilderness experience indicates to me that doing so is probably a good idea and so when doing so, I am usually in remote areas where encountering other people is very unlikely. Here, near Vancouver, amid truely spectacular mountains, where there are lots of bears, I never feel it's necessary.

I HAVE lived alone for three month stints in extremely remote Grizzly country, with no chance of rescue if injured and without break. I did this un-armed in 1972 and 1974, but, I was a LOT tougher and braver in my late 20s than now at 61, so, I do carry fairly often.

One point, I have a large and very valuable gun collection and shoot regularly and am very used to guns; yet, even with my Ruger Redhawk 5.5"-.44Mag. and my bear handloads, I DO NOT consider anyn handgun really adequate for bear protection and quit packing the heavy thing largely for that reason, something to consider, anyway.

3:45 p.m. on October 31, 2007 (EDT)
REVIEW CORPS
1,225 reviewer rep
1,263 forum posts

The original poster asked this:

Quote:

I was wondering if someone can explain the dynamics
of meeting people in the backcountry.

As most have summed up pretty well already, encounters in the back country are almost always cordial, or at the least, uneventful.

As I think back through my own experiences, a couple of minor exceptions come to mind, though neither example is particularly "bad".

One is when I hike on trails where bicycles are allowed. I really hate to generalize, but at least in my own experience, it has seemed like the dynamics between cyclists and hikers isn't very good. Each seems to resent the other's presence. Again, I haven't seen anything "bad" result, but the encounter is more one of "grudgingly tolerate" than cordial.

The other is when I hike on trails where "horse people" travel. I notice the same thing - hikers dislike the horses because of the stink and the flies. The horse riders (and the horses!) dislike the hikers, and sometimes the horses actually get spooked. I had one such encounter a couple months ago in a wilderness area in the Sierra. A group of three guys, with about 4 or 5 horses a piece, carrying everything including the kitchen sink (literally), passed me on the trail. Although I followed protocol and stopped, stepped well off the trail on the downhill side, and waited, the some of the horses got spooked and wandered off the trail. Needless to say, this really ticked off the riders (understandably so). If looks could kill, I'd certainly have been dead on the spot from the look one of the riders gave me.

Other than that, my back country encounters have all been cordial. The further I get from trailheads, campgrounds, roads (and as has been mentioned, the presence of alcohol), the less concerned I am. I'm actually much more concerned when I'm on a remote road or at a remote roadside campground, than I am in the back country.

7:24 p.m. on October 31, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
391 forum posts

I often encounter mountain bikers and even horse packers, we rode into a remote area in Sept. and then did some backpack hunting. We encountered other packtrains, one in a VERY hairy spot on narrow switchbacks high above a rushing small river, but, everyone was cordial and helpful, so, we got all the horses past each other.

The mountain bikers here are fine when they meet a packtrain, everyone is friendly and careful; there is, however, still lots of remote wilderness and empty space here, so, everyone has lots of room.

Horses are fine in the the bush, IF, they are handled well.

9:16 p.m. on October 31, 2007 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,329 reviewer rep
5,258 forum posts

bheiser,
Here in the SFBay Area (where we are still trembling from last night's 5.6 shaker and dozens of aftershocks, including a 3.7 while I was out hiking this afternoon about 2 miles from the epicenter), we have a lot of conflict between hikers, bikers, and the horsey set. Then again, it seems like everyone in this area is radicalized in one direction or another for their favorite activity/cause/lifestyle/landscaping/size of house in the neighborhood/anything you can name. Mountain bikers complain and show up at all sorts of hearings because they do not have enough mountain biking areas, paths are being closed to them (sometimes completely, sometimes certain days of the week or times of day), being restricted to established trails, or speed limits being imposed and enforced on multiuse trails (5 mph when passing other users, 15 mph at other times in most of the parks). Remember, mountain biking was "invented" here, on Mt. Tamalpais (in the Marin Headlands, just north of the Golden Gate), by our very own Gary Fisher (Barb and I were actually in college with him, as it turns out).

The horsey set is irritated that they have to share trails with other users. Many of them own and ride highstrung horses that will shy at just about anything (literally including blowing leaves, according to a friend who has several horses). Most riders and owners around here ride their horses no more than once a week, and then for only a couple hours to exercise them (they pay the stables to walk their horses daily and do the grooming). Having grown up in Arizona, where most kids went through a genuine cowboy stage, not just the play-acting, but really working on farms and ranches, plus (sigh!) leading the dudes and tenderfeet on "rides" ("dude" had a very different meaning before the 1960s and 70s). Our cowponies and Indian ponies were pretty tolerant of anything and rarely, if ever shied, except for the occasional rattlesnake (and then might decide to stomp on the snake instead). Although most pack horses in the Sierra don't shy, Jim S and I had the experience of having a pack team and accompanying riders' horses shy from our packs lying on a streambank. Most local rider horses, though, just aren't out on the trails enough to get used to hikers and bikers (or much else).

We have a very large contingent of hikers who want to restrict not only the bikers ("Uncouth Ruffians!") and horses (can't print their comments about horses and their waste products on this family-rated site), but also most hikers who do not belong to their particular hiking subset.

We are supposedly the most liberal area of the country, if not the world. But somehow, we seem to have the least tolerant set of citizens, when it comes to anyone different in any way (my city just recently expanded its restrictions and prohibitions on homeless people).

As Rodney King said, "Why can't we all just get along?"

12:07 a.m. on November 1, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
171 forum posts

One reason we can't all get along is that the coolest thing about mountain biking, the ability to zoom around curves and down hills, is the very thing that is dangerous and maddening to hikers. If you try to enforce rules sufficient to satisfy the hikers, you dilute the experience for the bikers. If you don't try to protect the hikers, serious injury can result to both bikers and hikers.

Another reason is that heavy bike use, such as in the Pinckney recreation area in Southeast Michigan, does serious damage to the trails and makes the hiking experience less than optimal.

For example, last December I was camping along a trail that is very popular among bikers. As I was lying under my tarp, near midnight, I heard a racket, looked out and saw a number of lights. Six or seven bikers then passed my campsite at close to warp speed, talking loudly among themselves.

I don't know the answer. I am unwilling to eschew an otherwise exceptional hiking area simply because of the bikers. That's why I carry a hardwood hiking staff and pray for a snowy winter.

7:08 a.m. on November 1, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
169 forum posts

Man am I ever going to enter a snake pit on this one, but I've got to admit to being both a backpacker and a mountain biker. That's right, I ride one of those nasty contraptions (although not as fast as I used to, I've noticed that age equates to slower healing).
The solution I see is cross pollination between the groups -if you're a backpacker, seek out local mountian bike clubs and meet some of the members - most of 'em are pretty good folks, don't want to see trails closed to them and are willing to listen to your concerns. Go on a ride or two with them - you might enjoy it (it's just another way to get into the woods, after all). If you've got the legs and lungs try mountain bike camping - it allows you to get deeper into the woods in a weekend than you could by foot and can be a lot of fun (and a lot of work - a loaded bicycle on rough trails takes strength and skill to control). You also might just introduce some of the mountain bikers to backpacking - a friendly invitation to a weekend trip can make people sensitive to your perspective of velocity on the trail.
As for horses - there are some multi-use trails near to where I live which the horse set seems to feel they "own" - I just step off the trail and let 'em by - I figure they've got "right of weight" plus most of the locals aren't accomplished riders and I'd hate to see someone (especially a member of my family or myself) get injured because they can't control their horse.
In short, with a good attitude and a sense of compromise we can all get along out there. The alternative (closing trails and making people into "outlaws") just isn't that attractive, at least not to me - after all - depending on the numbers, it just might be hikers that are banned.
As for night riding - it adds a new dimension to trails that you've been on in daylight and can make the mundane intersting again - sort of like rock climbing a route using a headlamp at night that you've been on a number of times in daytime.

July 31, 2014
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

 
More Topics
This forum: Older: Best way to groom yourself before a long trek. Newer: Adjusting Backpack correctly??
All forums: Older: merrell shoe opinion Newer: How to Sharpen Your Ice Screws