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Trail Tampering

Over this past summer I have witnessed a few practices that some of us have been performing on our state’s trails. To be more precise I am talking about the few that think it is ok to modify the trail to suite their needs. Earlier this year I went on a trail that is remote and not used much. I was with a group of about 10 rigs, our group came to a location on the trail where there is a steep down and up creek crossing, and a loose rocky hill climb on the far side of the creek. We could see a group of rigs working their way down the hill, in fact one person from their group walked down to us and asked if we could wait until they made it down. The person also stated they were taking their time because they were moving a lot of rocks out of the trail. This did not really register in my head until later when I truly saw what he meant. When they got down near the creek crossing I could see what they were doing, there were four or five guys gathering around boulders and moving them off the trail. I don’t believe in starting confrontations on the trail, but inside I was on fire.

The prior weekend two other rigs and myself had pre-run the trail to evaluate it for our group run. We decided at that time the creek crossing and hill climb would be difficult and challenging.  Now after climbing the hill on second weekend, after it had been altered I felt I should have left my four wheel drive vehicle at home and brought my two wheel drive pick up truck.

                        Why do some people feel compelled to “Road Building” before they even attempt to go through a section of trail? You know, I feel the fun of running a trail are the challenges you face. Moving rocks is not fun, it’s work! It’s one thing to attempt an obstacle only to find yourself stuck and have to strategically place some rocks or “Build a Bridge” to make it through. I think that practice is acceptable and we have all had to do it at one time or another. Just remember to dismantle your bridge and put the rocks back, removing the rocks leaves the challenge in place for the next guy coming up the trail.

                        Now on the other extreme we have a few that feel making the trail more difficult is ok too. These are usually the guys that have built such extreme rigs that they can’t find any challenges on the average trails and should probably move to Johnson Valley or Moab. There practices involves everything from putting boulders in the middle of the trail, to making off shoots of the trail to find a more difficult route. The second practice only gives the tree huggers the ammunition they need to close our trails down. I am talking about creating unnecessary off shoots or switch backs. These off shoots or switch backs make some sections of trails look like an Los Angeles freeway exchange. The extreme guys are not only guilty of this, the same guys that are into road building are also the guys always searching for an easy route even if it means driving over vegetation or crossing a meadow, and destroying what was previously untouched terrain.

 Regardless of what your motives are, the trail should be left to one route, the route that was usually laid out before any of us were born by horse and wagon.  The trail should not be permanently altered in anyway, by any one person or few, unless under the guidance of the Forest Service. Something I learned a long time ago in our forestlands is zero impact. Zero impact means when I leave no one should be able to tell I was there, this is what I believe and practice on the trail.

                        We can all help with organizing volunteers to repair and block off switch backs and educating trail users of acceptable trail use practices. In some cases such as the Bassi Falls Trail, a trail in terrible condition, the Forest Service may want to explore a trail route out. Right now the trail has only one way in, then you have to turn around and come back the same way out. This forces the creation of switch backs just to allow two way traffic, and doubles the traffic flow and trail deterioration on any one section of trail. Having a route out of a trail instead of a dead-end, and maybe a traffic direction control, would lessen the impact on some of our heavy traveled trails.

                        I think we can help, we just have take care of our trails with the idea they are for everyone to enjoy and not just a few.

Mike Stoller


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