Friday, July 25, 2014

Crowded Trails with Nowhere to Go

I'm a member of the R2R2R group mentioned in this article on Trail Crowds in the Grand Canyon HERE in which it's apparent that runners are of course being blamed for dropping trash all over the trails. Oddly, I rarely see a runner carry more than a few goo packets and water bottles. And a few dozen runners here and there on crowded days means maybe 72 goo wrappers, assuming they all drop their trash along the trail.

Sorry NPS but I think that the thousands of daily gumbie hikers carrying their poptarts and pringles cans in one hand and their dasani in the other are more likely to be contributors. I also wonder about the tons of daily mule poop deposits.

Quandary in Winter - normally only a handful of others up there
I actually did a fast-pack trip from the rim to the ranch and back way back in the 70's. Before it was cool. Even then, there were a few hundred other people on the trail with various levels of consideration for Mom Nature. As well, you couldn't go 50' without stepping in stuff that came out of one of three ends of a mule.

If you've been following my exploits over the past few years you might have noticed that as of June 2014 I haven't been doing any of the 14ers like I did in the previous half dozen years in which I did one a month or more. For one thing, I've been in a strange sort of denial/funk/mourning after the death of a great guy I climbed with or near a few times in Ouray. It was due to a disaster on Liberty Ridge and it hit me hard.

For another I just can't find myself tolerating the crowds like I used to. I do like to run, and go fast, and enjoy the feeling of pushing my body into new areas of endurance pain. Contrary to the old school with their 40 pound packs for a day hike, it's not all about counting blades of grass and goat pics. Though I have still hit PR's while taking a few minutes out for my own goat pics.

Line to the Summit of Torreys. We took the Kelso Ridge and even that had a couple hundred hikers.
Contrary to the opinions of the non-hikers suddenly on the trails walking in 20' wide groups ambling, stopping suddenly to rest on the flats, dumping their packs in the middle of the trails and sorting through for a snack, etc. you should respect your fellow outdoor enthusiast and allow them the freedom to use the trail in spite of you.

It's gotten pretty dangerous to go fast on the 14ers around here. I've had a few run-ins with illegally unleashed dogs. all of whose owners insisted that their dog did not in fact jump under my feet causing me to fall. I suppose I have a vivid imagination or they are in cahoots. I've come around a corner to find groups of people laying in the middle of the trail whimpering and fighting and they get angry when I run around them.

Downhill is probably the least safe area to pass, but even uphill can be a challenge. Using Quandary as an example, normally when I start at the parking lot any "normal" hikers below the rocky point at 13,200' will be passed by me as I head to the summit. On a weekend that would be a few hundred. In the trees that's tough, but on the steep parts it's not too hard to pass on the scree and talus and still be off the fragile tundra.

And unlike them, I won't hang out trying to feed the goats or get a selfie with my arm around their necks. I've actually seen it happening. If it were the aforementioned classic hikers that I had to deal with, it's all well and good. In the big scheme of things we're all on the same page, enjoying the mountain in slightly different ways. They will respect their fellow hikers and step aside gracefully. But to be impeded by the usual circus act that the 14ers are quickly becoming, that's another thing entirely. And the weekdays are becoming almost as bad.

It's difficult to say though, since someone from these groups will fall in love, catch the bug, and come back time and again, and before long they'll have a 40 pound pack on with 10 pound boots enjoying the freedom of the hills, and it was all worthwhile.

So I haven't been up this summer. It hasn't felt worth the risk of injury to myself or others to enjoy these peaks in my own way. I've been running on mountain bike trails where it's actually a whole lot safer. Seriously. MTB riders seem to have a good sense of courtesy and we share the trails nicely. I've even passed a few.