Learning to share the trail
With the peak outdoor recreation season soon to reach fever pitch, now seems like a good time to review those practices that will help keep everyone as happy and safe as possible. And ensure that the trails we use remain in top form for what is surely to be a demanding season.
To begin, lets get the obvious stuff out of the way. Whether you've heard it once or hundreds of times it, bears repeating -- Leave No Trace. This includes carrying out anything and everything you bring with you. It also means don't leave blatant signs of your presence. Specifically, markings or tags whether on rocks, trees signs or structures. Just don't do it. It detracts from the experience for everyone else and often causes expensive or irreparable damage.
Now for some things you may or may not know.
Who Yields to Who?
Ok, so you're the kind of person who never heads out on the trail without your "awesome badge" and is always courteous to others on the trail. You're wonderful! Treat yourself to something nice. You deserve it. Seriously.
But are there rules both written and otherwise that you should respect while on the trail? In a word yes. Let's say you're hiking, biking, riding horseback and you come across someone who is hiking, biking or on horseback - Who should move aside and allow the other to pass?
Well here's how it should work:
As far as hikers and mountain bikers are concerned; whoever is walking or peddling uphill should be given right of way. Generally speaking, bike riders should yield to hikers. Mountain bikers also should remember, if you cannot clearly see whether the trail ahead is clear, then slow down until you are certain your path is clear of hikers, people on horseback and wildlife.
Both hikers and bikers yield to horses, mules, and lamas. If on a steep slope, then step off the trail on the downhill side in order to avoid causing rockslides that might startle the animal(s). Also stay calm and avoid making loud noises or sudden movements which again, might startle the animal(s).
Finally, everyone yields to wildlife. Whether encountering a moose, bear, deer, snake, etc... Wild animals have no comprehension of human trail etiquette. Given time wild animals will move off the trail and allow you to carry on. Just make sure to keep your distance. Not only can wild animals be unpredictable and dangerous, but most states have laws prohibiting harassment of wildlife.
Echo...Echo....echo... Listening to your voice echo back from canyon walls can be fun, but remember; there are other people on the trail too. Many who are there to enjoy the natural soundscape, not your hoots and hollers. And, if you must bring your music along, then please USE EARPHONES. That way you can enjoy your music while allowing everyone else to enjoy their day on the trail as well.
In general, be aware of the noise you are making and how it can effect others. Avoid shouting and loud whistles unless in need of help.
Respect trail limitations. If dogs, biking, and so on are restricted or prohibited on any given trail, be respectful the trail and the people who use it. Find another trail that is better suited for your activity if necessary.
There are a few things that are not necessarily trail "law", but they can make a huge difference. Fore example: "short cuts" particularly on switchbacks. Please, forget the short cut. Slowdown - enjoy yourself. Wandering off trail can cause significant damage to vegetation and accelerate erosion, significantly degrading trail quality. This is important etiquette to follow whatever trail you're on, but even more so for popular, well traveled trails.
Take only pictures. The outdoors are full of beautiful flowers, cool looking rocks and much more. Do everyone a favor and leave everything exactly as you find it (trash being the exception). Granted, unless you're in a national park, there is generally no law prohibiting prohibiting anyone from gathering flowers, rocks and so on. But each year flower meadows are picked clean, rock hunting damages landmarks and unique areas.
All this affects the experience available to others who come after you. You may not know, but there are many places which required special protection because souvenir collecting has and can get out of control. Picked flowers soon wither, souvenir rocks are quickly forgotten. We offer you an open invite to value preservation more than collection.
There you have it! Now get out there, enjoy yourself and allow others to do the same.
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