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Another cranky hiker encounter (video); Trail poaching.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

Bike on a Trail for November 1, 2011. This is a fun water crossing!

Bike on a Trail for November 1, 2011. This is a fun water crossing!

Yesterday I did 20 miles out at Wekiwa, and it was wet and muddy out there. I didn’t take my DSLR, and I’m glad that I didn’t: by the time I finished my ride I was completely covered in mud and water. Also on the ride I ran into yet another pedestrian who was irritated because I was on “his” trail. I had my GoPro HD running, so I’ve got video of the encounter.

I need to point out that I have remained true to my word about staying off the trails that the runners use. 90% of my riding is on trails marked for bike use, but I am still riding one short section of trail (perhaps 1.5-2 miles long) that is marked as a hiking trail. The differences between this small section of trail and the trail I stopped riding are considerable. The section of trail I stopped riding is frequented by runners and hikers, it’s close to the main trailhead, it’s fast and there are blind corners. The section of trail I was on yesterday is always flooded and/or muddy, it is in a remote area, it sees very little traffic (I’ve been riding this section of trail 2-3 times per week for more than a year and have seen a grand total of 3 people during that time), runners never use this trail, it has no blind corners and, thanks to the mud and water, it is very slow going.

So yesterday I’m slogging my way through the water and mud, and off in the distance I see an older couple up ahead. I slowed to a crawl as I approached and said “Hi!” as I came to a stop. The old man ignored my greeting and said, “You know this is a hiking only trail?” Just as I was thinking, “OMG you’ve got to be kidding me…” I noticed that the cantankerous Trail Nazi had wet his pants. I felt a flash of pity, but stood my ground and explained that no one ever is out here, and I’m always very careful. This old guy was making a stink for no reason at all, and I admittedly was irritated. Pretending that I posed some some risk to him or anyone else would be equivalent to watching a turtle approach for 30 seconds and then screaming and jumping out of the way as he came to a stop 5 feet away. It was silly.

As I stepped aside and invited him to pass through I noticed that he and his partner had pruning equipment. He was out trimming the trail, which is expressly forbidden. Hypocrite.

Here’s the entire encounter, along with about 30 seconds of advance footage to show the poor (and slow) trail conditions.



There are actually a couple of very interesting articles on the subject of trail poaching in the November 2011 issue of Bike Magazine. The first one is called “Poacher’s Paradox” by Mike Ferrentino. Mike considers trail poaching to be a harmless act of civil disobedience, and even necessary. He likens trail poaching to not wearing a seat belt. While I agree with many of the points made in Mike’s article, I’m not sure I agree that it’s always harmless. I know that my view may come as a surprise to regular readers of this blog, but I can admit that bikes on some trails could be a danger to pedestrians (I don’t believe this is always–or even often–the case, however). I thought the article was thought-provoking, and definitely controversial.

The other article, just a page turn away from Ferrentino’s, is called “Futile Feud” by Peter Frick-Wright. This article focuses on an infamous “Trail Nazi” by the name of Mike Vandeman. Vandeman hates mountain bikers–of that there is no question–and stopping bikers from riding on trails not marked for bike use is his obsession. He brandishes a screwdriver and physically stops bikers by blocking their path. He has been accused of (among other things) puncturing tires, setting dangerous traps and threatening bikers; he was convicted of brandishing a deadly weapon and battery. The jury was deadlocked 8-4 (towards guilt) on the most serious charge–that he slashed a biker across the chest with a handsaw. There’s no question that he injured the biker with his saw, but Vandeman claims the attack was accidental. Pick up the issue, do some of your own research online and decide for yourself. I know what I think.

Anyway, when I had my first confrontation with an angry runner last month, I had no idea what a heated subject trail poaching is. Honestly I can see both side of the issue. It seems to me that zealotry in either direction is far more dangerous than anything else.

John Stone Fitness Comments

3 Responses to “Another cranky hiker encounter (video); Trail poaching.”
  1. What’s crazy is that you’ve gone so long without a single issue, and then BAM, you have it all kinda come to a head like this in the last few weeks. You’re definitely taking the high ground on this though John, so don’t sweat it.

    It just amazes me though how many people out there just can’t seem to coexist with the rest of civilization without being so disagreeable. It’s almost as if their whole existence in life hinges on how much time they can spend worrying about everybody else, rather than just worrying about their own actions and routine (yeah, I’m talking to you Mr. Trail Pruner/Pants Pisser).

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    • I’m also surprised that after all this time of riding out there with no issues a couple of people have complained within the last month.

      While I don’t agree with the original runner who took issue with me, at least he has something that could be construed as a valid point. Again, I don’t share his view, but I can at least understand where he’s coming from.

      This guy yesterday was just being a pedantic old fusspot. I would have much rather stopped and chatted with the couple about what a beautiful morning it was than have the needlessly terse exchange shown above.

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      • Hey John,

        Sorry for breathing life back into this post, but WTF is the matter with these people? Their arrogent “It’s my way or the highway” attitude is irritating enough, but what is even more irritating is the fact that these people seem to take these trails for granted.

        We have one area near by that can be used for biking, hiking, camping, ect. The area tends to be a tourist trap during the good weather and since I don’t have the patience for drunken campers, we stay out of that area entirely until fall.

        Maybe what these people need is a reality check. I don’t think it’s in your nature to smack somebody over the head with something, but just remind them that they should appreciate the space and enjoy it. If it is their goal to simply act like Trail Trolls, clearly they have bigger issues that need to be dealt with…

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