Ears Open, Head On Swivel

Me. on a ride, staying aware of my surroundings.

Me, on a ride, finding it rather easy to remain aware of my surroundings.

I’m surprised by how popular it has become to wear ear-buds or headphones out on the trails. And what about those people who ride, hike or run with music blaring from phones or other electronic devices? Give me a break! I’m not interested in listening to your tunes while we share the trail. Well, at least I can hear them coming.

There I go, getting off on a tangent, and I haven’t gotten to my main point, which is…stay alert and be careful out there. I’m suggesting that it is wise to use all of your available senses in an attempt to remain as present in the moment as possible on your trail outings.

Smoke from the 2013 Beaver Creek Fire.

Smoke from the 2013 Beaver Creek Fire.

Recent fires have left us with many standing dead trees. As time passes they become more vulnerable to being blown down. Windy conditions during recent trail work outings have brought trees down as we worked to cut out other trees. Such situations demonstrate the value of working in teams; its useful to have a spotter. Such happenings also remind us to remain alert, because things are always changing out in the forest. Be mindful of how the weather is changing, and be aware of your surroundings. In short, keep your ears open and your head on a swivel!

Forest Service sawyers cutting out Lodgepole Tr.

Forest Service sawyers cutting out Lodgepole Tr.

Now, I don’t mean to get all “Chicken Littley” about it, but trees are coming down, and I think its important for me to mention it. Important partly because some people may not notice that falling trees are a concern. This may be due, in part, to our ability to respond rather rapidly to reports of downed trees. If a person rarely sees a tree down across the trails, they might not give much thought to the idea that a tree could fall on them.

As reports of downed wood come in, we make plans to cut them out. If the Ketchum Ranger District trail crew happens to be in the area, or expects to be in the area soon, they will cut out the trail. Otherwise, a group text-message goes out to area volunteers asking if anyone might be able to take care of the situation. The great majority of the volunteer cutting is being carried out by local motorcycle riders. This has been the case for many years here. Now, don’t get me wrong, many people work on keeping the trails cleared. The Ketchum Ranger District trail crew cuts out a ton of trees, and other local volunteers cut out trees, or gang up to pull downed wood aside. I also cut out trees in my capacity as the BCRD Wood River Valley Trail Coordinator, but the motorcycle volunteers are always leading the pack on this detail. This year alone they have made multiple passes cutting out trees from our area trails. As an example, on the Mahoney Trail, in Greenhorn, motorcyclists have cut out the trail over 8 times this season. (KRD also cut out Mahoney twice, and I have cut it out once.)

Perhaps you would like some¬†evidence that a lot of trees come down across our area trails. Look trail-side for saw-cut wood on your next trail outing. Chances are that the side of the trail will be abundant with saw-cut wood. So, the next time you meet motorcyclists along the trail you might want to thank them for their stewardship and service. You’re likely to get the chance to do so, as these local riders often pull over and shut off their engines as people pass; they’re great guys and super ambassadors for their sport.

With time, standing burned-trees are more likely to come down. Changes in the weather can bring changes in soil moisture levels, which can also have an impact on the stability of trees. When conditions are ripe, wind events can bring large numbers of trees down rapidly. If you would like a demonstration of this situation I would suggest that you find a BIG clearing near a burned portion of the forest; an area well away from any standing trees. Hang out there until the wind picks up, and listen for trees coming down. By the way, you might want to bring a chainsaw along for your trip out.

Can you hear me now?

Can you hear me now?

Now, back to my earbud rant, and another story. Some motorcyclists were recently climbing up the Red Warrior Trail when a descending mountain biker came around a blind corner going too fast. Apparently, the earbud wearing bicyclist did not hear the motorcyclists, and he nearly crashed into them. From the report I got, it sounds like the mountain biker was lucky that the lead motorcyclist was highly skilled; the moto’s deft handling skills were said to have saved the day. Anyway, a bad crash was averted. The bicyclist went flying into the bushes, escaping with only a few scrapes and bruises. I think this event helps demonstrate that it is useful to be listening to your surroundings when you are out on the trails. If you can hear, you should use that faculty during your travels to stay as safe and aware as possible.


2 comments for “Ears Open, Head On Swivel

  1. Donttreadonme
    September 18, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    Yes, your ideas on earbuds is definitely a “rant.”

    The downhilling mtber wasn’t going too fast because his earbuds were in…he was going too fast because he is like the new breed of rider up here (past few seasons…) who ride when the trails are wet, who downhill too fast and lock up their brakes in corners, and who add little side-trail berms to trails that don’t need them.

    The near-crash was a speed issue, not a sound issue.

    You might do a lot for biking up here, but you also sound like so many of those people up here who are “liberal” and “tolerant” as long as everyone agrees with their viewpoint. News flash for you…you are one person who enjoys the outdoors in one way.

    Just because you experience the outdoors the way you do doesn’t mean everyone else has to do it the same as you…

  2. lotharmatthaeus
    November 21, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Donttreadonme, the point is, regardless of the downhiller’s speed, had he not had earbuds in, he would have been aware of the roar of the uphill traffic and used peoper trail etiquette by giving them the right of way. He was so preoccupied with himself and his experience, that he didn’t consider other users.

    I agree with you that there are many ways to enjoy the outdoors, but regardless of one’s political persuasions, when they impact others, then it is not okay. For example, I could care less if you like to listen to music when you are out in nature, as long as I don’t have to hear it. When someone is playing music on speakers and I have to hear it, instead of the sound of the river, birds or good-old-fashioned peace-and-quiet, then it is inconsiderate.

    If someone’s idea of a good time is shooting bottles and burning cans at a trailhead, since that behavior is destructive and impactful, then it is not okay. I assume that you don’t like people or government telling you what to do, but being considerate of others and aware of your impact is part of living in a civil society.

    You can experience the outdoors however you want, that’s part of your freedom, but you don’t have the right to influence my experience through noise, vandalism, excessive speeds, etc. I think that’s the real “news flash” here. Not sure why you’re liberal-bashing. We need to respect nature and others, regardless of our political philosophies.

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