Trends show that most users and visitors are amicable friends of the forest and follow ‘Leave No Trace’ principles. But despite the majority of users being good stewards, the rogue uses and impacts seem more outlandish than ever.
Most recently we extricated our second backcountry hot tub in two years. When in need for some hot water therapy, poaching the local condo association hot tub is one thing. Building a copper coil heated, battery powered and pumped, scrap wood framed, tarp lined hot tub for use at the backcountry campsite is another thing. Going to those creative efforts, then leaving said hot tub behind in the forest is a completely different thing. Pack it in, pack it out people!
Another new unwelcome trend is driving hundreds (if not thousands) of miles to bring the family to the National Forest, then letting your kids sit out the window on the door frame while you blast down dirt roads at obnoxiously high speeds. We saw one family make the trip past Musician’s Camp on Slate River Road at least six times one weekend, each time with the young ones dangling out the window while going 45+ mph up and down the road, turning at speed into campgrounds, navigating bumps and potholes, almost hitting oncoming cars and getting the vehicle sideways. Man, the Darwin Awards cannot account for this kind of ignorance and blatant foolishness.
More disturbing is hearing these very actions were seen in many other parts of our great state this summer. How do such things rise to prominence? Does the collective intelligence of a certain user amalgamate into a new social norm?
As happy, smiling, and friendly as users seem to me when I’m out playing in the forest, the backcountry conflicts have continued to rear their ugly heads. Arguments, even fisticuffs, have added to the mix of backcountry shenanigans. From UTV’s parking, unloading, and blocking ‘occupied’ campsites, to a brawl on a trail between a motorized and non-motorized user, there seems to be a lot of loose cannons out there.
As good a job as our collective community has done to help realize backcountry infrastructure and etiquette, there sure seems to be that random percentage of users that just don’t want to play nicely in the sandbox. Sure, ignorance is bliss. But when you hear the stories of young kids rolling UTV’s off Italian mountain, backcountry parties going bad, little ones hanging out truck windows going Mach 5 on dirt roads, day-use trailers blocking occupied campsites, and backcountry brawls, you have to wonder how you can remedy such disconnection.
It seems the very majesty of this glorious backyard and the mountains themselves would inspire a distinct sister/brotherhood amongst the users. We can all share and find so many better times and memories in collaborative efforts. But we too, are subject to the times, and our backyard can often imitate the divisive culture we ponder upon the nightly news. But that makes it all the more important for us to reflect upon that natural, glorious beauty so many of us seek in our outdoor activities, and to play the equal part of nature in trying to find and imitate balance.
Sure the random rogue incidents steal the spotlight, but so many good things are equally being done in the backyard. Our trail care and stewardship crew, the Crested Butte Conservation Corps (CBCC), along with STOR, HCCA, GOATs, and Land Trust crews (amongst others) are doing quality stewardship, restoration, conservation, and maintenance work across the vast expanse of open space in our great county/forest.
On Trail Creek in Taylor Park, a recent STOR meeting was held in conjunction with volunteer efforts to help restore critical wetland/riparian habitat. Specialists from the Gunnison Ranger District, supported by Gunnison Stewardship Fund partners and HCCA, CPW, NFF, CWCB, UGRWCD, BLM and more, are building ‘beaver dam analogs’ in an effort to help attenuate water on the landscape and return complexity to historically riparian habitat. These efforts have worked so well, that two resident beavers moved into the habitat that was created last year by those crews. Obviously, the beaver approve of the work being done.
This type of wetland/riparian habitat supports so many forest and wildlife uses, and provide groundwater recharge and healthy watersheds. The work being done is so cool, the improvements are noticed nearly instantaneously, and the aerial photos show the massive positive impact on the ground. CBMBA and the CBCC work so hard to get water off the trails, in this case, we were super excited to volunteer with these partners to bring water back to Trail Creek.
CBMBA/CBCC/USFS and community volunteers also recently completed an incredible re-route on 405.3a (Hammer Trail) high up in the Cement Creek drainage. It’s another incredible and positive impact on a once scarred landscape, providing better trail experiences, sustainability, loop opportunities, and big smiles.
CBCC crews also continue to refine and define the Mogul Storage Trails. If you have not ridden them yet, you are missing out! And CBMBA and the CBCC are working alongside the CB Land Trust to build a new mile long hiking trail at Long Lake. This new 42” wide and very beginner friendly trail will not just be a great amenity for Long Lake users, but for Adaptive Sports uses as well.
Although CBMBA is at its heart a mountain bike club, we are also very much a trails organization, too. In our 6th season, the CBCC continues to work with our partners, land managers, municipalities and more, to realize the best experiences possible for all users.
Please reach out anytime with observations, questions, or how to get involved at firstname.lastname@example.org.