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!
11 thoughts on “They’re fast, and they’re deadly!”
Hi Sarah and Jay . Robert and Patti here from mile 549 . We don’t stalk but are following you . It was absolutely delightful to meet you both . Thank you for your descriptive pen and taking us on the PCT with you.
Dear Patti and Robert,
Oh! We so enjoyed meeting the two of you also! Conversation with you was so informative and pleasurable. Thank you very much!
Reblogged this on Hiking Adventures and commented:
I think this post goes along with mine about dogs off of their leashes. If you’re out in nature, respect the rules. They are there for a reason (usually many). Keep your dogs on leashes at all times. Do not take your bike on trails where they aren’t allowed. Pack all your trash out with you. Just respect where you are.
I like your last line … “respect where you are”. 🙂
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Thanks. It’s a growing concern of mine – how people are treating nature.
A shame that a few “rogue” mountain bikers have impacted your hike. I mountain bike and have hiked a fair bit of the PCT. In my experience, it is a very small minority of mountain bikers that willfully poach trails closed to bikes. We’re not all hooligans. 🙂
Just as a “heads up”. In Oregon there is a short stretch of the PCT just north of Timothy Lake where a trail open to bikes and the PCT share trail. Cyclists are asked to walk that short section, some do and some don’t. A similar situation occurs near Cutthroat Pass in the North Cascades in Washington. That section is not signed (at least last year when I hiked it) asking cyclists to walk so everyone rides it. Both those places have decent to excellent visibility so collision potential is minimal.
Thank you for the heads up! Decent visibility sounds wonderful!
I don’t think of mountain bikers as hooligans! My best friend and her husband participate in that sport. It requires muscles, skill, and fast reactions. It’s impressive.
I just want to help “poachers” think about their actions. 🙂
I don’t remember you writimg anything about it, but have you noticed a lack of LNT among the hikers? I see it all the time, and have yet to successfully address it. The one PCT hiker I saw camped on a grassy surface next to a creek with a fire going in the firering he had just made gave me the classic, you don’t understand, I’m a thru-hiker, if you were hiking the miles I do, you would understand why those rules don’t apply to me. I pretty much just try to exemplify LNT and also pick up trash I find while hiking to try to be a goid example. What do you do?
LNT (Leave No Trace) is a very important concept for hikers and all users of our natural world. I’m glad the PCTA is so active in making hikers aware of the things we can do to help protect this sanctuary from a man-made society. To specifically answer your question, “What do I do?”
I try to help hikers think about their actions, just as with cyclists and anyone else I meet. Everyone must learn for themselves. Heaven knows, I’ve made many mistakes when I was younger, and now that I am older, I still make mistakes! But if we all act with good faith, trying to do our best while protecting that which we love, then hopefully this world will still be around for future generations.
I am so glad you two were not hurt by the bicyclists! How unsafe these are to you.
I never felt threatened by the second and third sets of bicycles. Yes, I felt that the first cyclist was acting dangerously, going so fast. But I do think most cyclists are good people. 🙂