Thursday, March 26, 2009

"What are they thinking?"

ATV Passed by While Taking Picture

If you follow Dangerous into the backcountry, expect to leave all modern conveniences at home, and prepare for a bit of hardship. Ask anyone who rides or hikes with him about their experiences, and they will probably tell you about sore feet, poor food, and bad weather. Utah Jack is a bit more blunt than most. I have heard him ask Dangerous directly after an extremely long horse ride about what he is trying to accomplish. Utah usually asks something like, “Is it your goal to ride out as far as possible, and then try to get back!” At age 62, Dangerous has slowed considerably, but he still likes very remote and inaccessible country, and he believes there are only two ways to get there – on foot or horse. If you ever choose to go, don’t expect spending time in a modern recreational vehicle or house trailer equipped with TV dish and microwave. When you go with Dangerous, you won’t get a hot shower, you sleep on the ground without a tent, and you cook dinner over an open fire or on a backpacking stove. I have heard Dangerous tell more than one first time rider or hiker that if they want to be comfortable stay home! Even I carry my own pack, and sleep on the ground.

From what I understand, it’s becoming more and more difficult for Dangerous to find remote and inaccessible places without a lot of people. Every year, he points out a new road or ATV track that didn’t exist before. Often times, I am stuck in the truck while Dangerous registers his complaints with one Forest Service employee after another. He tells them that motorized users are destroying the supposed non-motorized trails that are set aside for horses and hikers. The Forest Service always expresses concern and agrees that motorized travel is restricted in the area. They tell Dangerous that they will try and keep ATVs out, but both Dangerous and the Forest Service know that’s almost impossible. Enforcement of travel rules on public lands is a joke these days. Dangerous knows it, and so do the ATV riders who constantly ride in areas supposedly off limits to motorized use. If caught, they might face a small fine or be sent on their way after a stern warning. According to Dangerous, the fine or warning is just part of the weekend or holiday’s recreational expenses.

ATV Track Next to Road

If you really want to get Dangerous started, tell him that it’s only a few who ride their ATVs out-of-bounds and cause damage. He will wave his arms, turn red-in-the-face, and get really loud. He will usually ask, “Who are these two guys from Salt Lake City causing all the damage?” He usually tells the unfortunate public land manager unlucky enough to be within ear shot that if there are only a few of them then enforcement ought to be easy. Once he goes off, Ole’ Dangerous usually ends his rant with something about those two ATV riders from Salt Lake must really get around because he sees the damage they cause about everywhere he rides or hikes these days.

If you last long enough, he will start pulling out his pictures documenting the damage they do. He usually starts with the two parallel tracks running next to each other. The track on the right is the road, and the track on the left is the ATV trail cut by the two inconsiderate riders from Salt Lake. What really gets Dangerous going when he shows someone this picture is the sign that any rider has to pass. It tells them that they are required to stay on existing roads, but as you can see those two guys from up north have pounded a new route next to the perfectly good one.

Stalled Out

Next, he will pull out the picture of the ATV track we followed last fall into one of our favorite non-motorized places on the High Plateau. One of the two guys from Salt Lake pioneered a road into an area that in the past has only been accessible by horse or foot. Whoever the rider was, finally stalled out on an extremely steep stretch, but not before causing serious damage that will probably show up during spring runoff or after a heavy rain.

Meadow Damage

Finally, Dangerous shows whoever is still around the picture of what the two ATV riders from up north can do to a meadow when they put their minds and machines to work. For some reason, these two guys can’t stay on the trail which goes around the edge of the meadow, but have to ride directly through it. Not only do they ride across, but they also have to cut circles that take years to repair.

The discussion, if you can call it that, usually ends with Dangerous asking, “What are they thinking?” Maybe you can help him answer that question. I know Dangerous’ answer. It is really simple. “They aren’t!” If you have any insight about how to solve this problem, I would love to hear from you. With your help, I might lower Ole’s Dangerous’ blood pressure a few points, so I he will be around to feed me the next few years.

1 comment:

Bluester said...

Piano wire?

Best from the Fremont