Saturday, April 4, 2015

Trail Etiquette

Posted By on Sat, Apr 4, 2015 at 7:25 AM

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Spring is here. Well, it’s close enough. More birds are flying around, plants are starting to turn green and the Sky Sox are about to start playing. And even though most of us still hit the trails over the winter, it’s likely we haven’t gone as far, or as often as we do during the warmer months. Knowing that there’s going to be more of us out on the trails soon, it seems like a good time to talk about trail etiquette.

Right of way: It’s pretty simple, really. When two hikers meet, the one going up hill has the right of way. Let them pass. The uphill hiker may choose this as a good time to stop for a breather and let the downhill hiker pass, but that’s their choice. Unless they signal you down, always let the uphill hiker have the trail.

Cyclists always yield to hikers, regardless of direction of travel. After all, the cyclist has a mechanical advantage. I hear a lot of horror stories about cyclists on trails, screaming around blind corners, and almost hitting hikers. I’ve experienced it myself in the past, but lately I’ve noticed more and more cyclists observing the rules of the road, so to speak — good to see. But if you’re hiking downhill and see a cyclist huffing and puffing and straining to get up that steep hill, it’s a nice gesture to let the cyclist keep going. It’s the hikers choice, and the cyclist should yield unless the hiker indicates otherwise.

We share a lot of the trails with horses, and equestrians are a friendly bunch of people. The rules for horses on trails are simple. EVERYONE yields to horses. Period. They’re big and can’t just step on a rock or the side of backslope to let someone pass. So give them space — a lot of space. And don’t make sudden moves to spook them, the riders kind of like the idea of staying on the horse and not getting tossed off.

Clean up your mess, and your dogs’ mess. Finished that bottle of water? Good, you’re staying hydrated. Now don’t be a slob and toss the disposable bottle on the ground. Take it with you and throw it into the trash when you get home. Even better, instead of throwing it in the trash, recycle it, or take it home and refill it. Best of all, buy a hydration pack and ditch bottles all together.

Going hiking with Fido and Rover? Nice. Bring some plastic bags and pick up your dogs poop. And by pick it up, I don’t mean bag it and then leave it on the side of the trail. TAKE IT WITH YOU and throw it out. There aren’t any dog poop fairies out there picking up the bags of dog poop you left behind, so be a good dog owner and do it. If you can’t, then leave the pups at home.

Follow the rules. If a trail is closed, it’s closed. That means me, and you, and you hiding in the back there. You may think you know a shortcut, but shortcuts and rogue trails damage the landscape and result in more work for others to fix. Many of those “others” are volunteers, and likely to be your neighbors. Give them a break and stay on the trail. If a park's rules are for dogs to be leashed, then leash your dog. Yeah, I know your argument: your dog is friendly, won’t bite or hurt anyone. Well, that may be true, but you don’t know how another dog or wild animal will react, or how someone who is genuinely frightened of dogs will react. As for those little tiny dogs; they look absolutely delicious to the hawks, falcons and occasional eagle that are looking for a snack. There are parks that have areas for dogs to run loose, such as parts of Palmer Park and Bear Creek Regional Park. Want your dog to run loose? Go there.

Be friendly! A quick “Hi” or “How ya doing” is a nice gesture to share with other folks on the trail. Don’t be afraid to stop and chat. Almost everyone you meet on the trails are friendly just like you. And if you see me on the trail, I’d be thrilled if you said hi.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor and small business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for over 23 years. He is the board president of the Friends of Cheyenne Canon and a member of the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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