Thursday, October 29, 2009

Do unto others

I admit that I am probably not the best person to share a trail with. On more than one occasion, I’ve come around a blind corner only to encounter someone else coming up and been going too fast to politely stop and let the other person by.

I hope other trail users will forgive these instances, as they are neither malicious nor intentional. I hope they will forgive them just as I am willing to overlook the many, many instances when I encounter dogs off leash, even when the signage clearly states that dogs must be on leash.

And while I’ll admit that I’m not willing to go off trail or risk crashing for the sake of avoiding a dog that’s supposed to be on a leash but isn’t, I have never intentionally hit one. I’ve hit them by accident, but it’s always been slow speed, and they’ve always jumped in front of me at the most inopportune moments. (Why is it that the owners of the stupidest dogs, i.e., those most prone to jumping in front of cyclists at the last possible moment, seem also to be those most likely to let their dogs off leash when they’re not supposed to be?)

I’m willing to overlook these off-leash dogs and the bags of poop left trailside that may or may not actually be picked up by the owner on the way out, because I’m generally a pretty tolerant person out on the trail. My mood is almost always good, because being active outdoors is my drug, and I am an addict. It is an upper like no other.

Sometimes, in my exuberance, I’ve been known to ride a trail or two that I’m maybe not supposed to be on. Like Pinebrook, or ducking into upper Millcreek on an odd day, or the little spur that turns Shoreline into a lollipop instead of an out and back. (Thinking about this, Alex has been with me on most of these occasions. And when I haven’t been with Alex, I’ve been with Ed. Are they bad influences on me? Or is it the other way around? Hmm.) But when I do so, I’m extra, extra polite, always stopping and letting other trail users by, and very conscious of the fact I’m not really supposed to be there.

I hope my politeness will lead others to forgive these indiscretions. My experience is that it’s quite easy to get along with people who are polite and considerate. Getting along with other trail users really isn’t that hard, because in general, we don’t get into each other’s way, and we try to be nice when we do.

There’s one huge, glaring exception, though: horses. I understand some people are really into horses, but frankly, they take way more than their share.

The trucks hauling horse trailers take more than their share of road going up American Fork canyon. I’ve seen them run cyclists off the road and pass others way too close. And then they act like the cyclist is at fault for being there in the first place. The horses themselves take more than their share of trail—they are too big to get around, and encountering one is an ordeal for all involved.

Encountering a horse on the trail is scary. They’re scared by my bike, I understand that. But my bike weighs 25 pounds, is easy to control, and doesn’t do anything under its own power. On the other side of the equation, though, horses are massive creatures that weigh 1,000 pounds or more, they spook easily, and despite the riders’ best efforts, it’s impossible to know for sure what they’ll do. It’s a lopsided affair in the horse’s favor.

As if that weren’t enough, cyclists have poured hundreds and hundreds of hours into building new mountain bike trails in Corner Canyon. Now that one of them, after a full season of effort, is almost done, one of the equestrians on the trails council had the audacity to propose that, since the mountain bikers had their own trail, Clark’s trail should be made equestrian only. As if. Here’s a better idea: why not organize yourselves and build your own trail. Preferably in Herriman. Or better yet, Delta.

Really, though, for all the problems they create, I’m almost willing to have a quid-pro-quo with horses and mountain bikers on the trail—you tolerate us, we’ll tolerate you, we’ll all do our best to get along.

I say almost because there is one thing that decidedly tips the scales in favor of the mountain bikers in this equation: I have never, ever, not even once, pooped in the middle of the trail. And even if I did, and especially if mine were 86 times its normal size like a horse’s is, I certainly wouldn’t leave it there.

(Photo courtesy of Brandon, who has to deal with more horses than I do.)


  1. Nice. Your rant could have had more venom though. Horse owners and I have a history. By the way my dumb dog Mookie is typical of the k9's you describe. I only ride with him on Sundays so only heathens like myself will have to deal with him.

  2. That big old pile was taken on Ghost Falls a week or two ago.

  3. My rant lacks venom? I've gone soft. I'm embarrassed.

  4. What? I’m your bad influence?? Oh man, I feel terrible. Let’s get together this weekend and pick up roadside litter or help little old ladies cross the street or something.

    I don’t run into many horses. My biggest issue with them is when they go on wet trails. All that weight bearing down on such a small surface area creates pocks that last all season long- way worse than any foot or tire-print.

    I want to meet your friend Ed. He sounds like fun.

  5. Watcher, for our public service, we could inspect local trails and make sure no horses have been on them while they were wet.

  6. Do not mind me. I am still mad about the last time the neighbor's 8 horses knocked down my fence and messed up my yard.