3 weeks ago
Seen on a yellow yield sign in the woods — Hikers yield to equestrians; equestrians, control your horse; bicyclists yield to everyone; absolutely no ATVs.
All those rules are just enough to ruin a good hike. I’ve reworked the rules in my illustration, which replaces right-of-ways with antipathies, that is, “deep-seated feelings of dislike or aversion.”
As with all posts at Backpacker Comics, this one wasn’t published without extensive fact-checking. My research about sharing the trail turned up an article from the Sierra Club titled “Do Bikes Belong In Wilderness Areas?” According to Aaron Teasdale, sociologists have documented an “asymmetric relationship” among trail users. It begins with separating groups of trail users by number: 1. Hikers, 2. Horse Riders, 3. Mountain Bikers, 4. ATV/motorcyclists. People in each group have no problem with the ones above them in the hierarchy but don’t want to see the ones below them on the trail. That’s why the relationship is “asymmetric.”
It’s a complicated way of saying that most hikers don’t want to see anyone on the trail who isn’t touching it with their own feet. Horses and motorized vehicles aren’t allowed on the Appalachian Trail, for example, which makes a great many people very happy.
Horse riders, meanwhile, claim to be hugely misunderstood. See, for example, the article by Chelle Grald titles “Horses As Trail Users,” which explains that “horses are our heritage.” Not only that, horses are “low impact” and “lightweight” trail users that don’t do as much damage as people do, given their relative numbers.
As a typical boastful hiker, I’m not buying it. As for bicyclists and ATVs, I promise to tolerate them like I try to tolerate horses, while hoping I don’t get run over in their operaters’ insane hurry to get to wherever it is they’re going.