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February 27, 2016: Happy Trails to You

Last night Pete and I went to see the play, Fiddler on the Roof. Coincidently, our neighbor and good friend, Karen, got the seat next to mine. What were the odds of this? I was really glad to see Karen, she’s one of my favorite people of all time. I’ve always admired her from afar. I say “admired from afar” because I don’t see that much of her. She some time ago chose to travel in differing social circles. We have a great deal in common – we are both physically active, are avid readers, and have similar environmental leanings.

However, there is one thing that we disagree about, and this is trail use. Karen is now primarily a cyclist/cross country skier and I am now primarily a horseback rider. I use the word primarily because Karen used to horseback ride

Riding with the posse

and I used to bicycle/cross country ski. It is also not beyond the realm of possibility that Karen might sometime ride and I might sometime ski or bicycle.

A number of years ago Karen owned two horses, Bea, a black Arab and Elmer Glue, a chestnut stock horse with a wide brown blaze. Actually, Elmer was Karen’s husband Mike’s horse. Karen and Mike eventually split up, and then Gene, Karen’s boyfriend, rode Elmer, that is until the horse dumped him. Bea died a few years back of chronic wasting disease, and she sold Elmer. Karen then took near exclusively to bicycling and skiing. Raudi had been then come of age, so I rode more and more. Not surprisingly, Karen and I began seeing less of one another.

Last night the divide made itself apparent. I said in passing to Karen that I was concerned because of this winter’s very large influx of fat tire bicyclist. Karen, after hearing me out, rolled her eyes and then said “oh come on! Indicating that there has not been a problem. I said that my concerns, at first minimal, grew after a bicyclist groomed the trail, making it far faster than it was previously.

Karen didn’t say anything. Rather, we both momentarily sat, staring into space. I thought – this is what happens. Trails become silent sport super highways. (In this instance) bicyclists take to them. Everyone becomes proprietary. Safety and use issues rear their ugly head.

Karen and I moved on to talking about other topics, and we resumed being collegial. And I sat thinking – I do have a legitimate claim. There is a decided lack of knowledge on the part of some cyclists as to how deal with horses on trails. Cyclists need to slow down, start talking quietly, and wait for a bit until riders get their horses off the trail, so that bicyclists can pass safely. Just as importantly, they should converse with horseback riders, thus putting equines at ease.

There are two local organizations which represent both factions. There’s the Valley Mountain Bikers and Hikers. And there is the Backcountry Horsemen. I would like to see members of both organizations work together, but I don’t think the interest is there. Most are in their own groove.

Our horses are actually pretty bombproof. However, a bicyclist riding up close behind a horse could cause even the most bombproof of animals to spook. And some do kick.

Karen and I began talking about other things – and for a bit, it was like the good old days gain. But it is no longer the good old days. Essentially, our trails have been discovered. And their numbers are growing. I’m more than willing to share the trails with these other silent sports enthusiasts but I don’t want to see anyone get hurt. Sad to say, this looms as a distinct possibility.

Next: 57. 2/28/16: Hold Yer Hosses

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