When you go hike more often than not, there are a lot of things to see and experience that go beyond the view. I’m not knocking the view or being immersed in nature. Actually, the view, nature, and getting away from the hustle and bustle are pure joys of mine with regards to hiking. It is sort of a walking meditation, part of my yoga off the mat, and a fun workout for me.
But… and yes, I have a “but” when it comes to hiking. It’s called Trail Etiquette! Many people, in fact most people I encounter, have it. However, NOT EVERYONE DOES. Typically, those that don’t have trail etiquette fail miserably!
This past weekend, my friend and I saw some of the worst offenders on a popular trail (Barr Trail) and thus I was very inspired to blog about it. VERY INSPIRED!!!
– A guy flying down the trail on a bike, not wearing any protective gear and shirtless, crashed into a rather large boulder at the switchback corner. First, he never announced a heads up so he kind of scared us as he came out of no where. He flew off his bike. He shook it off, got back on and kept on riding. He is just begging to seriously get injured.
So in case, you’re wondering, I’ll share important trail etiquette in hopes to enlighten those few who are naive. Overall, etiquette violators come off as extremely rude. You don’t want to be “THAT” person, do you!?
A. If the trail is narrow: If you are descending (going downhill), you should step aside to those ascending (going uphill). Why? It takes way more energy to go up hill (fighting gravity) than it does to travel downhill (with gravity). Hiking uphill is way harder! We all know this.
B. If the trail is narrow: if you are moving faster than someone and hope to pass them, don’t assume they know you are there. You might be a stealthy runner, they may have earphones in, or they are hard of hearing or deaf. Yes, deaf people enjoy hiking too! Here is what you should do, say something! “Runner on your left” or “Excuse me, may I pass.” This goes a long way and your slower person will shift to the right side of the trail or stop so you may pass. Yep, it’s that simple!
C. Usually there are trail signs. However, if there isn’t, remember:
– Bikers yield to hikers and horses
– Hikers yield to horses
D. Treat the trail like you do a road. Stay to the right.
E. Also, just because you are running and someone else is walking/hiking, doesn’t mean your workout is more important or mean you trump the hiker. Never ever run over anyone! All I can say is WOW! See above!
If a trail is not well marked and I’ve been on trails where it seemed the trail disappeared into thin air, some people will mark it using nature. Personally, I for one appreciate it.
What are cairns? Cairns are a man-made pile of stones maybe forming a pyramid or arrow. Don’t destroy it! You come off as a complete ass, if you do! Leave them alone.
The cairns are someone’s pay it forward or well intended karma to prevent others from getting lost when the trail seemed to have disappeared and it isn’t other-wised marked. And people do get lost. Some hikers really stray off course and have to be rescued. Every summer, here in Colorado, someone gets lost and the story makes the news. Not everyone has a GPS/compass and not everyone’s instincts are on target.
3. SMALL TALK GOES A LONG WAY!
Say hi or engage in small talk (talk about the trail or how nice the weather is) with other hikers. It’s friendly, polite, and it makes the hike more pleasent. It also is a smart safety move. Why? Let’s say something bad happens to you and people start looking for you, chances are higher that the people you spoke to are more likely to remember you than the people you never uttered a word to. Those that remembered you maybe able to provide useful information to first responders. Things like where you had mentioned you were hiking to or at the very least where they saw you. This narrows first responders’ search window which likely allows them to find you quicker and that maybe the difference between hyperthermia, shock, or death…
Why hike if you are going to text or yak on your cell phone the whole time. Put it away! Only pull your phone out for GPS or taking pictures. You’ll save your cell phone battery, you’ll enjoy your hike more, or you’ll hear nature to include wildlife. Think about it!
I can’t believe I have to say this. No one should really be able to see you do your business. Leave the trail, find some trees, or large boulders and allow them to conceal you. Same applies to your dogs! Take them off the trail or pick it up!
If you pack it in, pack it out! Water bottles, cigarette butts, and power bar wrappers are things I sometimes see. Don’t litter and destroy nature!
7. STAY ON THE TRAIL AS YOU HIKE:
Don’t take shortcuts between the switchbacks. You’ll destroy nature, mess up the clarity of the trail, and increase your chances of getting hurt. Last year, we lost a Fort Carson solder because a group of them were cutting across switchbacks and straying off the trail. Not smart! One accidentally fell down an embankment and needless to say he was critically injured, his buddies couldn’t get to him, and he succumbed to his injuries. A great way to end a hike, not!
If you google trail etiquette, you’ll see that professional hikers/writers say pretty much the same thing. Hopefully, this will help educate at least one person on trail etiquette thus making hiking more enjoyable for all of us (including me). Remember, you aren’t the only one on the trail!