Open Letter to Bikers Everywhere

The recent opinion piece in High Country News sparked a viral amount of dialogue on that magazine’s site and on other platforms that picked up the piece, like Adventure Journal. It begged a follow-up on improving understanding for all who use multi-use trails.

yield-trail-sign-tempeBelieve it or not, bikers and hikers must yield to horse riders on many trails. This rule isn’t some snooty, “we were here first” deal. It’s just common sense. It’s much easier for hikers and bikers to yield to horses than the other way around.

Horses are prey animals. Bikes approach like predators, quickly and silently. Even the best-trained horses can spook, bolt, or jump sideways when they encounter bikers or hikers with big packs.
The results can be harmful to all. Think of a moose-vehicle collision. Now, take away the vehicle.

To avoid collisions and flared tempers, take these simple steps:

Download a pdf and share it with your local bike shop.

•    Announce yourself: Once you see horse and rider, let them know you’re approaching as soon as you can. No yelling necessary, just a friendly “Hey, how are you?” will do.
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•    Slow down or stop: Ask the rider if she’d like you to stop and step off or if slowing down and passing is okay.

•    Keep talking: Being friendly and communicative isn’t just nice manners, it lets the horse know you are a person, not a predator.

•    Anticipate around corners: Avoid tearing around blind angles. There could be large, dangerous animals around the bend! If you can’t slow down, make noise to alert possible trail riders.

•    Take the low road: If you’re on a grade and are trying to move past a horse rider, take the downhill side.

trail-clipart-TRAIL6Horse riders are not victims here. Nor are they guilt-free when it comes to trail conflict. Let’s recognize our contributions to the problem:

  • Be a polite advocate. As we noticed in the comments on Adventure Journal, mountain bikers have plenty of stories of rude, entitled horse riders. Don’t be one of them. Remember, you get more with honey than vinegar.
  • Also, if it’s been rainy, stay off trails where horses can do serious damage. It can take a long time to renew and repair trails that have been trashed when horses move up and down them in wet conditions.
  • Got a horse who’s spooky around bikes? Practice. Expose your horse to bikes in a more predictable environment. Make it a positive experience.
  • Assume the worst. Don’t put yourself or your horse in a position where things can go sideways. If you see or know of mountain bikes presence, set yourself up for a safe encounter. If this means hustling off the trail, so be it.

Have fun sharing the trail!

Water, water, nowhere

Liberty bottles can be easily and reliably tied to saddle strings.

Liberty bottles can be easily and reliably tied to saddle strings.

As summer winds down, I’m giving thanks to a spectacular season; one that gave me a crash course in riding and hiking essentials here in Utah. Watch video.

Sure, there’s the need for carrying a cell phone, a good knife, and for wearing sunscreen. But the biggest essential?

Water, of course.

After too many needless episodes of screaming headaches and swollen feet, I’ve learned to drink before I’m too thirsty. I’m a happy hydration queen. Read this excellent article on the importance of water.

In the Oquirrhs, there are virtually no water sources during the hot months. Even with a filtration device, we’re out of luck. My saddle bag or backpack was typically stuffed with at least a half gallon of fluids.

Liberty Bottles, recycled aluminum bottles made right in Washington State, served me well. I can jam two or three in a saddle bag and unlike with other bottles I won’t be worrying about leaks. If the horses kick them or step on them? No big deal as they are more durable than alternatives. The nifty top means I can tie them to the saddle, too, by simply looping it through a leather string.

The dogs took to their Olly Dog Lapper immediately.

The dogs took to their Olly Dog Lapper immediately.

Call me finicky, but the lips-to-drink connection is important. Since Liberty Bottles are metal, have no threads, and have a wider-than-pop-bottle opening, they’re wicked nice to use. It’s almost like drinking from a glass at home.

The dogs were treated to fluids in an Olly Dog Lapper, a folding travel bowl that packs easily and takes up very little space. Much more convenient (and stylish!) than alternatives. It can hold more than a liter of water and has enough surface space (lapping room) for two thirsty dogs to drink at the same time. Like me, Belle can be awfully picky about her water delivery system. But she took to her new Olly Dog with no reservations.

Olly Dog’s rectangular shape means you can easily pour the unfinished dogs’ water back into their bottle. Give them another mile, they’ll be craving more.

Read more about hydration scares and tips.

Liberty Bottles

Olly Dog.

The Lapper shape allows you to easily pour water back into bottle

The Lapper shape allows you to easily pour water back into bottle

Trail Trash Talk

Woodsy_owlWilderness ethics meant “clean up after yourself” to me, decades ago. Back then, family “vacations” usually had something to do with trail maintenance. My dad was president of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and led scores of service outings. Us kids were charged with clearing and clean up. I had a “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute” pillowcase and sheet set and probably drove my mother mad singing the US Forest Service jingle.

So littering is an act that I struggle to understand and tolerate.

I’ve logged several hundred miles in the Oquirrh mountains and foothills since moving here last year. By far, the most prevalent users of this beautiful, rugged country are horsemen and women. And by far, the biggest litterers are beer-drinking riders.

That equestrians are most guilty is particularly galling, since I spend a lot of time representing the community with NickerNews and BestHorsePractices. Most riders I know personally are conscientious and share a Leave No Trace mentality. Still, on any given ride, I end up stuffing my saddlebag with somebody else’s empties.

Rather than piss and moan about it, I’ve decided to take action. I planted signs and receptacles in two spots, a mile apart blfrom one another, along the busiest trail in the neighborhood where public and private lands intermingle. The reused laundry baskets won’t collect water and no animal can get trapped in them.

Thus far, riders have dropped growing collection of cans and bottles (mostly beer). Call me odd, but I’m feeling grateful. It’s an appreciation for picking up strangers’ trash that I never embraced as a kid.

These strangers might be shifting the burden off themselves, but, hey, at least they give a hoot.

Watch video of the grand evolution of Woodsy the Owl, the US Forest Service spokesanimal from the 1960’s to the 1980’s.

 

woodsy

Maine girl moves West

_DSC2662I was born and raised on the coast of Maine. The ocean was a given. We swam in it, sailed on it, clammed it, fished it, even hopped its icebergs during the coldest winters.

Then I left home.

When I came back years later, I was stunned by the beauty I’d taken for granted:

The thick evergreen woods practically pushing themselves off seaside cliffs. The craggy shorelines, full of coves and inlets. Those coves and inlets revealing eddies and tide pools. Eddies and tide pools rich with life.

IMG_1079I saw those things back then. I’m sure. But the beauty and details were newly captivating.

Now, I live in Utah and wake up every day, staring at the mountains:

The ridges and draws marked with scrub oak, junipers, and cactus. The canyons’ spectacular dirt and rock rainbows. The quiet spiked with calls of ravens and coyotes. The morass of life squeezed from this high, dry climate.

Do Utahns grow accustomed to these natural wonders, like I did back home? Do natives know how good they have it? While exploring the state with non-native eyes and ears, UtahOutsider may introduce fellow travelers to these discoveries and may remind Utahns of the glory all around.

 

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