Miles under our Feet

by Gillian Larson | posted: April 24, 2017
200 miles done

Guess how many miles we've completed so far?

It was a very hot (high 90's) but thankfully only 13 miles to where I had parked Tuna Can (that's the smaller of my two truck and trailer rigs) as we completed this section today. Along the way I saw lots of mountain bikers and sadly one mountain biker who was doing the whole trail but seemed very bitter about having special bike detours due to parts of the trail not being open to bikes. He said, "I wonder if I shit everywhere on the trail, if I could then go where I please like horses do?" What could have been an awesome conversation about a shared adventure from two people trying to explore Arizona on their preferred mounts was spoiled by ill manners and him needing to throw jabs. He was also obviously ignorant about the fact that horse riders face restrictions of our own.

Unfortuntately, there often seems to be a lot of conflict caused by differing perspectives about how a trail should be used. Hikers, bikers and riders don't always see things eye to eye, and each has a unique agenda and differing concerns about the perceived problems caused by the others. I agree that a single horse causes more damage than a single bike, but bikes outnumber horses about 100 to one on this trail in parts. Riding just isn't a common sport anymore. And the bikers go fast, which is more of a safety hazard to hikers and horses on steep terrain. I've had plenty of close calls with bikes on trails near my home, and thankfully my horses are pretty spook-proof, but that's not always true, and it can be really dangerous on both sides; not only can the rider get thrown if a horse bolts, but the horse itself can get hurt, and even the biker can lose control and skid or take a spill when suddenly encountering a horse in his path. Plus bikers run over snakes and lizards all the time, even if they are trying to avoid them. I am perfectly happy to share the trail with bikers and will gladly move out of the way if I have space even though horses officially have right of way. What I hate is the refusal of each party to acknowledge their own negative impacts on trail. Especially when horseback riders are the vast minority, it really becomes a bullying environment against riders who don't have the numbers or voice to compete with hikers and bikers. There have been campaigns to prohibit stock in the Sierra, and obviously this biker that I met would like to see them off the AZT as well. I think it is a shame that some people are so small-minded and selfish.


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