April 26, 2018
In late afternoon, descending a dry, exposed section of trail, I was startled by a rattling sound, behind me, approaching fast. Adrenaline flooded my body as I jumped to one side, just in time for a bicycle to whiz past, inches from my pack! Terrified and outraged, I managed to yell to the back of the receding cyclist, “You don’t belong here!”
The PCT is closed to all wheeled vehicles. There are some parts of the trail where a bicycle could cause serious danger to hikers. Closing the trail to mountain bikes helps to protect fragile trail tread as well as provide a unique, safe place for hikers and equestrians.
As I continued hiking, and my heart rate slowly returned to normal, I fantasized of things I could have done. My fantasies ranged from throwing rocks at the bicycle wheels (perhaps a bit violent) to haranguing the hapless cyclist in my best teacher voice (definitely less violent).
Later, when I caught up with Jay, we discussed possible actions that would be safe for us as well as good for the cyclists.
The PCTA and the US Forest Service make the rules of trail use pretty clear!
April 28, 2018
Two days later, we heard another bicycle coming down the trail. Since we were together, and not quite as startled as last time, Jay and I spread out, effectively blocking the narrow path. The cyclist slowed to a stop, probably puzzling over the sight of two grubby hikers grinning at him as if he were a much anticipated Christmas present. We’d had a lot of time to think of what we should say to cyclists on the PCT. But now that we had our chance, how to start?
I took the conversational plunge. “What are you doing here?”
“Same as you, enjoying the trail,” the young man replied.
“But you’re on wheels.” My hands made circling motions.
“And you’re on foot.” The cyclist didn’t get my point.
“And you’re illegal,” Jay joined the conversation.
A look of impatience crossed the young man’s face. “Oh, we’re all illegal sometime. Look at the cars on the freeway going 80 mph. I’m sure you’ve been out there breaking the speed limit.”
“Actually, no, I don’t speed. I stick to 55 mph,” Jay grinned.
“Oh, you’re THAT one,” the cyclist began.
I interrupted him, “Yes, and it saves lots of gas that way.”
The young man turned and grinned at me, diverted from his rant. “That’s true! Especially if you drive a Prius! Do you have a Prius? What do you drive?”
I shook my head, and Jay spoke. “We don’t have a car at the moment.”
This was beyond the cyclist’s comprehension. “What do you mean? How did you get here?”
“We walked,” Jay grinned.
“You walked.” The cyclist sounded impatient again. “Where did you walk from?”
Oh, how we love that question! Jay’s grinned broadened as he gave our favorite one word answer. “Mexico.”
“What?!!” The cyclist turned towards me. I nodded vigorously. “Well, I am impressed,” he conceded.
Jay, pressing our advantage, explained more. “This is the Pacific Crest Trail, 2,640 miles from Mexico to Canada. It was planned and built for hikers and equestrians. You see, there are so few trails reserved just for walkers. People come from all over the world to walk the PCT. It’s kind of like a sanctuary to us. When we see a bicycle tearing down the trail, it ruins the experience.”
The cyclist slowly edged his bicycle around us. “Well, I just moved here. I’ve never heard of the Pacific Rim Trail. But now I know.”
“There’s lots of dirt roads in this area,” I contributed helpfully. “You can ride for miles on them.”
“Well, thanks. Good luck on your hike.” The cyclist prepared to push off.
“Take care,” we replied, parting amicably. Maybe we had helped one cyclist think a bit.
April 30, 2018
Today much of the trail wound around the hillsides, taking sharp corners and carrying us across steep, slippery slopes.
At one point, the terrain flattened, and the trail meandered between groves of live oak trees accented with green grass and small bushes.
Jay and I were enjoying the change of pace, when suddenly we saw two bicycles headed towards us on the path. We spread out, hoping to slow the cyclists and talk with them.
I was ahead of Jay, so I held out my hands in the classic ‘stop’ signal. The cyclists did slow down, and the second man actually got off his bike. The first man just steered slowly around me, since the trail wasn’t steep at that point.
“Do you know where you are?” I asked the first man, turning as he passed me.
“Yeah, we’re on the PCT,” the man replied.
“Bicycles are not allowed here,” I exclaimed indignantly. I turned to the second man as he approached. “There are places on this trail where it is very dangerous for bicycles to meet hikers,” I tried to explain.
“I’m just following my friend,” the man said apologetically as he walked his bike around me and mounted again. “He says we only have another mile before hooking up with a road again.”
Just then I heard the first cyclist telling Jay, “Hey, I’ve done a lot of trail maintenance out here.”
“That doesn’t matter,” Jay replied, but it was a futile effort, the man was already past, heading down the trail.
Jay and I felt frustrated from this encounter. The first man knew he was breaking the rules and did it anyway! I wanted to tell him, “So you’re being a jerk by not having the courtesy of listening to us, AND you’re being an idiot by cycling here when you know the rules!” But I suppose calling him names wouldn’t have helped anything. Regarding the second man, Jay later thought of an appropriate quote from the TV show, Lonesome Dove. “You ride with him, you hang with him!”
We’ll keep trying to be cordial and informative. We don’t want to be judgemental (even though we might feel it inside!), we want to help others see the hiker point of view.
P.S. If you are a mountain biker, know that I think there is a place and time for that exciting sport. But if you are a mountain biker who feels that you have a right to be on the PCT, well, you do … just leave your bike at home!