When you’re wrong, you’re wrong

 


Let’s start by reviewing the stereotypes: ATV’ers are rowdy environment-hating backcountry ramblers who blow exhaust in the faces of mountain bikers as they pass them on the trail. Mountain bikers are self-righteous trail users always working to get backcountry access closed off to all-terrain vehicles, right?

If only it were that simple. On a recent mountain biking adventure, two buddies and I did the Poison Spider Trail just outside Moab, Utah. It’s considered a classic ride for mountain bikers, and it’s just as popular for ATVers.

On one steep climb, we came upon a group of four Jeeps. The drivers were gathered around one vehicle with a man lying beneath it, apparently trying to figure out where a drip or funny noise was coming from. They were right in the middle of the trail, and as we got closer, I assumed the folks standing around watching would honor trail etiquette and step aside for us. They didn’t.

I got off my bike and walked around them, restraining a snarl. “Inconsiderate, trail-hogging jerks,” I grumbled as I made my way up the trail. “Take your beasts somewhere else.”

A mile up the trail I was still fuming, when I noticed that my pedaling had all of a sudden gotten harder. Drat! My luck for the weekend had finally run out. I had a flat. I already had my bike flipped upside down and the punctured tube removed by the time a Jeep came creeping up the trail. “Great, go ahead and get your kicks as you rumble by the broken-down mountain biker,” I thought.

The Jeep came to a complete stop next to me. “Got everything you need?” the driver asked, leaning out the driver-side door and examining my situation. “Yeah, I’m good. But thank you.”

“Are you sure? Is there anything I can do to help?” “Nope, all covered, but I really appreciate it.”

I looked at my two buddies as the Jeep drove off, “Nice guy.”

With my flat fixed, we continued on our way. One buddy took off ahead of us, the other lagged a bit behind. I rode for what had to have been three, four miles, soaking up the sun and scenery on a beautiful fall ride in canyon country. Then it hit me. The buddy that would always ride ahead would usually stop and wait for us to catch up every mile or so. But I’d been riding for a lot more than a mile. He was nowhere to be seen.

Somewhere, I’d missed a turn. I looked for answers from my buddy who had just caught up from behind. He looked left, he looked right. “Yeah, I’m not sure,” he said. We were lost in Poison Spider’s tangled web of trails. We backtracked a few miles and took a turn that looked right. Our third friend never appeared, and we were convinced we should have reached a ridge overlooking Moab that was our way out of the slick rock wilderness.

We then did what any tired mountain bikers would do. We took a seat on the nearest rock, removed our helmets so we could scratch our heads and ate a granola bar. Then another Jeep pulled up. We explained our situation, and the driver pointed behind us. “That’s where you’re trying to get.”

Our Moab overlook, and access to a trail down, was just 200 yards away. We couldn’t believe it. Five minutes earlier, we were prepared to backtrack two hours, when our way out was 200 yards away. Saved again, by a Jeeper.

When we finally made our way back to the parking lot, our buddy was waiting for us, looking pained: He’d waited for us on the ridge for more than an hour. He said quite a few people in Jeeps stopped and asked if he was OK while he waited, and no, they hadn’t seen us. One Jeeper gave him a Gatorade, and then asked, “You hungry?” Now remember, some in the ATV community will lead you to believe that they live to snarl at mountain bikers, and some in the mountain biking community would lead you to believe that riders should do the same.

Once again, someone forgot to tell this Jeeper that. He tossed my friend a six-inch Subway sandwich, wished him the best and headed on his way.

Josh Nichols is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He is managing editor of the Grand Junction Free Press in Grand Junction, Colorado, and admits that he got started in mountain biking because a cheap mountain bike was a lot cheaper than a cheap Jeep.
Anonymous
Dec 10, 2007 12:09 PM

BOTH mountain bikers and ATVers are on their best behavior these days, because they know that their access to public lands hangs by a thread. I wonder when people are going to see the obvious -- that vehicles of any type are destructive and don't belong off of pavement. The Earth doesn't have enough wildlife habitat left, to be able to afford sacrificing any more of it to thrill-seeking (or non-thrill-seeking)  humans.

Mike Vandeman, Ph.D.

Anonymous
Dec 10, 2007 12:44 PM


I have always believed that the only way to truly make progress in the recreation on public lands debate is for the recreating public to join forces and focus on what we have in common, not the things that pull us apart. At a time when our land managers are faced with so many other priorities, it is important that we find ways to demonstrate responsibility and stewardship of these lands-no matter what type of use we prefer (I'm primarily a hiker, but also mountain bike, cross country ski and use my four wheel drive to access the trailheads I most often use).



The Continental Divide Trail Alliance's "tag line" is "The Trail Unites Us". Our efforts to complete this national treasure have relied on support from a wide spectum of stakeholders-ranchers, natural resource companies, a variety of recreation and conservation organizations and volunteers and members from across the country and abroad. While the legislation that created the Trail speaks to pedestrian and equestrian use, we believe some sections should be available for mountain bikers. While we also believe the intent is for a non-motorized, primitive and challenging experience, we recognize many trailheads are only accessible by four wheel drive vehicles, so we work with those groups as well.It's amazing what we can accomplish when we put aside petty differences and work together.


So next time you're out benefiting from the opportunities to enjoy our public lands, think about the importance of preserving these experiences for future generations and then find a local grassroots organization that is trying to make a difference and sign up for a volunteer project or write a check. Because if those of us who love the great outdoors don't step up, who will?



Bruce Ward



Executive Director



Continental Divide Trail Alliance


Anonymous
Dec 10, 2007 12:45 PM


I have always believed that the only way to truly make progress in the recreation on public lands debate is for the recreating public to join forces and focus on what we have in common, not the things that pull us apart. At a time when our land managers are faced with so many other priorities, it is important that we find ways to demonstrate responsibility and stewardship of these lands-no matter what type of use we prefer (I'm primarily a hiker, but also mountain bike, cross country ski and use my four wheel drive to access the trailheads I most often use).



The Continental Divide Trail Alliance's "tag line" is "The Trail Unites Us". Our efforts to complete this national treasure have relied on support from a wide spectum of stakeholders-ranchers, natural resource companies, a variety of recreation and conservation organizations and volunteers and members from across the country and abroad. While the legislation that created the Trail speaks to pedestrian and equestrian use, we believe some sections should be available for mountain bikers. While we also believe the intent is for a non-motorized, primitive and challenging experience, we recognize many trailheads are only accessible by four wheel drive vehicles, so we work with those groups as well.It's amazing what we can accomplish when we put aside petty differences and work together.


So next time you're out benefiting from the opportunities to enjoy our public lands, think about the importance of preserving these experiences for future generations and then find a local grassroots organization that is trying to make a difference and sign up for a volunteer project or write a check. Because if those of us who love the great outdoors don't step up, who will?



Bruce Ward



Executive Director



Continental Divide Trail Alliance


Tanner
Tanner
Dec 11, 2007 03:04 PM

Mike Vandeman,

I consider myself a very green kind of guy but I can't disagree with you more about vehicles  off pavement. Are you suggesting all recreation of the wheeled variety be on asphalt? By extending that logic, MORE of the earth would be paved over, destroying more habitiat. And what about the environemental impact of horses and other pack animals? They can certainly be more destructive than a mt. bike!

Here in New Mexico we are having a big controversy over ATV's and dirt bikes poaching mt. bike trails in the Cedro Peak area outside of Albuquerque. I am an avid mt biker, and I hate seeing the destruction caused by irresponsible motorized vehicle use. But I completely understand the desire to ride an ATV and/or motor bike. The only solution I can see is having some trails designated for only motorized use, some for only mt. bike use, some for only equestrian use and others multiuse. Hikers can have the Wildernesses :) . Just my 2 cents.

Anonymous
Dec 11, 2007 06:08 PM

Great article!!  Most of us jeepers are good people looking to enjoy nature, as much as any other recreationalist.  I'm glad you saw the true nature of our sport.

David Adams

Moab, Utah

Red Rock 4-Wheelers Land Use Officer

Anonymous
Dec 12, 2007 11:49 AM

My group picked up a dehydrated biker on Hell's Revenge in Moab a few years back.  She was a novice and her companions did not prepare her.  She was burnt to a crisp, dehydrated, and all in all in real bad shape.  We ended our fun early, and took her to the parking lot where her friends where at.  We also gave her food and water on the way back.  They were trying to arrange a way to get her out of there.  All they needed to do was wait and ask for a ride.  Plenty of Jeeps drive through there all day long.  She was grateful, as were her friends, and we were glad to help.  It was the best part of the trail for me, just being able to help someone out.  Hopefully everyone can try to think and act that way.  As far as the broken Jeep in the middle of the trail goes, well there could be several reasons for that.  One being that the Jeep broke a part that made it immobile, and another being that there was not enough room to move out of the way without veering off the trail into the vegetation.  That's a big no, no... 

Brannan "Bud" Feldt

 

Anonymous
Dec 12, 2007 01:18 PM

This article illustrates the importance of a balanced perspective.  It's easy to get caught up in a one sided perspective based on isolated or even multiple experiences that may tend to reinforce a negative perspective of one group or another.  Things are rarely so easily categoriezed.  Truth seems to almost always fall between polarizing positions.  There are few issues that are truly black and white. 

I recently read an interesting tantrum by David Wong (Google "Monkey Sphere"), who explains why as a whole members of different groups are so easy to dehumanize and devalue the opinions and desires of the opposite group.  [Read his Monkey Sphere ideas with caution as the words might poke an eye out.  Rated M for Mature Audiences Only.]

No mater the side of the issue you are on it's hard to disagree that the world is here for us to take care of and use.  The points most of us disagree on is How to use these resources, and How to take care of the world.   Tolerance, understanding, and appreciation of diversity is what makes us as a nation strong.  Diverse opinions, beliefs, and passions should likewise be approached with tolerance, understanding, and appreciation. 

Dr. Vandeman, in response to your online comment, your cynicism on this issue is clear and valued as part of the diverse pallet of perspective on these issues, while I have to admit that I disagree with the perspective itself. I think it's important to realize that the potential lose of access to 'Public Lands' via a particular means isn't the cause or reason for back country courtesy.  This is simply good old fashioned manners at work, not the superficial result of a 'Public Lands' use discussion.

In every bunch there will be a few rotten bananas, but as a whole bananas are rather good, and always have been.

MT. Bikers and ATV/OHV enthusiasts have different ways of enjoying and taking care of the same lands and so at times they have felt at odds with each other.  However, as this article shows and as most serious veterans of both sports will tell you, courtesy rules most days.  It's an issue of passing these values to our children and to new comers that perhaps has proven more difficult.

Tanner, I also value your invested perspective in your online comments. I do however, feel that these various Off Pavement activities are not mutually exclusive and that education of tolerance, understanding, and appreciation for diversity is the solution, not isolation.   While there is a place for everything and everything has it's place, I don't personally feel this requires us to remove ourselves from each others paths.  Of course there will be some areas that should be only for equestrian use or MT biking, or where only ATV/OHV activities should be allowed... but these should be case by case areas and not a general approach to policy.

The important key is balance; to consider historical perspective, use patterns, economic and ecological impact.  It is important to understand that recreation is part of a balanced approach to living (and this community) and that responsible use of Public Lands while we engaging in Off Pavement activities doesn't by default mean the destruction of resources.

Mel Atwood
Moab, Utah

Tanner
Tanner
Dec 13, 2007 08:05 PM

Mr. Atwood,

I pretty much agree that we need a balanced approach to land use, and there are certainly times when multiuse trails are appropriate. It is on these trials especially where we need to respect various users. I certainly do not want to be responsible for someone being thrown from a horse if I come hauling tail down a trail on my  mt. bike. BUT, I want the opportunity, on some trails, to haul tail and not have to worry about a horse. I'm sure a guy on an ATV, dirt bike or Jeep feels the same way about me on my mt. bike and I can respect that. We all share the same desire to be outdoors experiencing life in our own unique expressions.

Dr. Vandeman, I also respect the right of backpackers and hikers to experience solitude and quiet in the wild. I enjoy that as well. But I am also a "thrill seeker" as you call us, and I am not ashamed of that at all. I am not out to wantonly destroy ANYTHING. But the natural world is to be EXPERIENCED, and for me that is best expressed in the saddle of my mt. bike. I am not going to deny a fellow human his particular method of experience just because there are some irresponsible members of his group. As an ethical outdoor recreationist, I have volunteered hundreds of hours on trail crews to the benefit of all types of trail users. The real issue is educating trail users and developing an environmental ethic that makes us want to preserve what we have so we can continue to enjoy it and share it with future generations.  I think this is a better solution than denying access.

Anonymous
Dec 19, 2007 03:48 PM

Certainly pavement is not distructive right Doctor?