Roberts: Happy trails
May 31, 2016
Like many of us, I spent the holiday weekend getting reacquainted with the remarkable trail system offered in this town. Oh Glenwild, how I adore you. You are always ready long before your competition. Oh Colin and Rob, how I’ve missed your stunning aspens and posted signs warning me I might see a bear. For some reason, they always make me chuckle. Oh Iron Canyon, I’ll come back later when you’re not in such a muddy mood.
It is just the very start of our long-overdue reunion, but unfortunately, the family is already fighting.
I was pretty bummed out this weekend to notice a number of trail users who were annoyed — hostile, even — at the realization they did not have the entire mountain to themselves. Given the exchanges I heard, that definitely seemed to be the expectation. Twice I encountered this attitude myself. Actually, you could say I nearly bumped right into it.
While out with my dogs, a downhill mountain biker narrowly avoided crashing into us. Instead of apologizing for going too fast, he yelled at me. "Get those dogs on a leash!"
I would be lying if I suggested a string of colorful words didn’t flow freely from my mouth in response, many of which started with "f" and ended with "off." Admittedly, I can make a sailor blush when I’m mad.
But that’s not the point. This is: As a hiker, I had the right of way. Adding to that, my dogs were on electronic collars, which is a legal substitute for a leash in Summit County. And I certainly would have stepped off the trail and given the biker a wide berth had I heard or seen him coming. The near collision happened around a blind switchback. And I was the sole object in his path, not my dogs, who were busy treeing chipmunks. Having them on a physical leash would not have changed the outcome. Except the guy probably would have been clotheslined.
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But who needs a few facts when finger pointing is so much easier?
The following day while out walking on the Rail Trail with a friend, a similar situation occurred. My friend and I chatted as our dogs (on electronic collars) explored a few feet ahead. A man on his road bike whipped by us so quickly I briefly wondered if his spandex was on fire. He was going far too fast for a multi-use paved trail littered with families, strollers and training wheels. And he too offered some choice words and misguided blame when he almost collided with one of the dogs in our group.
Not only was his speed ill-suited for the trail he was on, he also didn’t announce his presence when passing. Had either myself or my friend had any indication he was coming up on us, we would have happily corralled our dogs and moved to the side.
I enjoy being on my bike as much as the next person, but when did it become the expectation everyone else must have a personal review mirror? Why has safety been delegated to the person with a blind spot? To my knowledge, the only person who has ever had eyes in the back of their head is my mother. And outside of the "Owl Man" act at the carnival, people cannot generally rotate their heads 360 degrees. Expecting this is literally an accident waiting to happen.
The Mountain Trails Foundation has worked tirelessly to educate users on trail etiquette. To summarize, it goes something like this: Don’t be a jerk. Slow down. Use a bell to announce your presence. Bikers NEVER have the right of way. Mud kills.
Here’s hoping that little refresher results in a courteous and collision-free summer.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident, and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.