Forbidden filth

Like a lot of Durangoans, I’ve been known to get a little cranky when I’m not getting some. But before you let your mind start wallowing in the gutter or throw down this typically family-friendly paper in disgust, take a deep breath. Although also typically involving heavy breathing and sweat and known to get a little dirty, I am referring to that other local pastime – outdoor recreation.

Yes, we all need it, crave it and get a little psycho without it, no matter the season. And the recent May-December weather romance, coupled with a small weekend window in which to plant my garden, has cut into quality time with my favorite two-wheeled partners.

That’s right, I’m a two-timer. Depending on my mood, there’s a hard-tailed, eternally single, man of steel for rough and tumble rolls in the Gulch and a smooth-talking, sleek sugar-daddy for longer dalliances in the mountains. Anyway, if this makes me sound like a regular bike hussie, I’m not the only one. I know plenty of Durangoans, male and female, who proudly boast at least two saddle buddies; some who are lucky enough to boast threesomes; and even a rare few with entire stables of bikes-in-waiting that would make Warren Jeffs green with envy.

Anyway, as deep as my love is, I am not one of those unconditional “till-death-or-hypothermia-do-us-part” types. I like to think of myself as more of a fair-weathered rider. In other words, if the sky is flaking, so am I. As for the bikes, they are kept in a cushy vacation villa, aka garage, next to the mower and boating stuff, until more alluring weather returns.

However, as most of us know, this spring’s bike riding reunion has been a little rocky. For starters, the spring thaw has lasted longer than the Cold War, and frozen moisture, no matter how much we love it, has been an occasional unwelcome interloper. (Not to complain. I have friends in Steamboat who have been shoveling for eight months straight, and I thank my lucky stars that I am 1,000 miles from Tornado Alley and almost an entire hemisphere from the nearest erupting volcano.)

For us inhabitants of the dry sponge known as Southwest Colorado, a little rain and cold is more of a minor springtime inconvenience than a life-threatening event. In other words, we’ve got it good. So good, in fact, that we occasionally lose sight of this and act a little selfish.

Some would argue downright spoiled. You may recognize the scenario, it goes something like this: Excited for the first inkling of spring or the sight of tacky singletrack after a few days of rain, we bust out our steeds like inmates fleeing a lifetime of incarceration. But about halfway through our maniacal freedom ride, as the mud sucks our tires and clogs the works like wet cement, we realize perhaps we have been a bit overzealous in our singleminded quest. But, it isn’t until we look down and see the eco terrorism we have unleashed on our favorite trail that we feel the real remorse. Walking gingerly on the terra non-firma, we apologize to no one in particular as we backtrack across the slip’n slide destruction. We then take the back streets home, hoping our riding buddies don’t see us on a mud-caked bike (which cost us a years’ wages) doing the dreaded ride of shame. That’s because no one wants to be “that guy” (or girl): the one who jumps the gun and goes and ruins – and ruts it – for everybody.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure all of us have been guilty of such trail transgressions at least once. I say “once” because one ill-fated foray into the is usually all it takes to never do it again. And it’s not just cyclists – hikers, dog walkers, runners and horseback riders do it too. And this spring is no exception. Careless, clueless or what may even be construed as deliberate destruction on wet trails has wreaked havoc that takes months to correct and has kept our inboxes and phones buzzing with complaints. Before you know it, a veritable hornet’s nest has been stirred, with bikers vs. horses; runners vs. bikers; horses vs. dogs.

So, isn’t it just easier to sidestep the whole steaming pile of blame altogether and simply use some restraint like civilized mountain folk (if there is such a thing)? Instead of running roughshod in the mud, why not occupy yourself with other endeavors until stuff is high and dry. Have another beer, learn to knit, catch up on “Desperate Housewives” Season 4, play Wii bowling, clean out the basement. Heck, take a spin class if it gets that bad (which, in full disclosure, I did last week and lived to tell.)

Because, strangely enough, we all love the same trails, and with a few exceptions, we all have as much right as the next Spandex or Wrangler-wearing guy or gal to use them – and none of us are going away. And that’s just the point. The trails are for all of us, which means we don’t want to navigate someone else’s wheel ruts or dog poop anymore than they do miles of postholes from a 1,200-pound pack animal.

Because when it comes to being passionate about our outdoor endeavors, perhaps patience is the most important thing to exercise – and a little can go a long, long way.

– Missy Votel



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows