President’s Message: Shared Experiences

This past weekend I had the good fortune of attending the 26th Annual Keyesville Classic. There are some great singletrack trails throughout the Keyesville and Kern Valley areas. These singletracks are open to horses, bikes, hikers and motorcycles, but closed to quads and other wider OHV’s. Our group had two encounters with motorcycles while riding outside the event course.

This shared-use trail allows motorcycles.

This shared-use trail allows motorcycles

We were enjoying near-perfect weather, great traction, spring flowers, great views and some amazing Southern Sierra singletrack. One solo motorcyclist came by. He yielded to us–as proper etiquette dictates–pulling off to the side. He left his engine running, and appeared impatient for us to get out of his way. He didn’t say anything, even after I thanked him. I got the sense that we were invading his space, disrupting his day. In turn, he was invading ours.

Another group of four motorcycles came by a little later. They pulled off to the side of the trail well in advance of us, turned off their engines and the leader took off his full-face helmet. My friends were a little way back so I stopped to talk to them. Once everyone caught up our two groups had a great conversation about the wonderful new re-route on the trail and the perfect weather. We talked about how much we loved the trail, despite our different mode of travel.

Our conversation turned the encounter from an “invasion of each other’s space” to a “shared experience.” Both our groups came away from the encounter knowing there are other trail users who are respectful and who share a common love of the public lands on which we recreate. It was a much different encounter to the first.

I’m sure some hikers and equestrians see mountain bikers as invading their space. Some mountain bikers might feel the same about hikers, equestrians, or even others on bikes. It comes from a sense of entitlement: “this is MY trail and MY day to enjoy it.” This attitude of entitlement has no place on shared-use trails on our public lands.

At the same time, I realized how easy it is to turn an invasion of space into a shared experience. Just be respectful, use proper trail etiquette by yielding or stopping, and strike up a conversation. Even a simple “enjoy your hike,” “hello,” or “thank you” can turn an encounter with another trail user into a more positive shared experience. Celebrate your mutual love of the trail and respect for others enjoying the same. You’ll come away from the encounter just a little bit happier in the knowledge that others care about the trail–and other trail users on it–as much as you do.

— Steve Messer

One Response to “President’s Message: Shared Experiences”

  1. Kevin Flanagan says:

    Thanks Steve!

    Since I started leading my beginner groups up the Arroyo Seco last year, I’ve discovered it is also a very popular hiking and equestrian trail, and I always make a point of saying “hi” or “thanks, I would have stopped for you, but you beat me to it”. It’s very easy to get in the mode of thinking its us vs them, but a simple greeting, or a stop for a quick conversation, reminds everyone that we are all the same, just people out for some enjoyment of the outdoors. And many people love the CORBA smile hanging from my handlebars.