On mountain biking and wilderness
August 25, 2009
On Sunday, Aug. 17, 2009, I mountain biked the Hay Park area, located north and northeast of Mount Sopris. The purpose of my day was twofold: to enjoy my day off and mountain bike a great local trail, and also perform a wilderness inventory of the Hay Park area for the Hidden Gems Wilderness Corps.
This summer the Hidden Gems Inventory Corps has gone into proposed wilderness areas, taken photos of both human impact and extraordinary wilderness, and reported findings. In June I had the opportunity to look down upon the proposed wilderness area from the ridge which runs in a southerly direction from Mount Sopris. From above I couldn’t see any trails other than 316.1, which I lost in the trees by Hardscrabble Lake. To the north of Hardscrabble were multiple drainages of trees, small creeks and ponds. From both above that day, and from below as I was surveying from the Hay Park trail on Sunday, my imagination was drawn into that section of potential wilderness.
For several years now the campaign has been working with mountain bikers to map out potential conflict areas. As reported in an article by Joel Stonington on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007, in The Aspen Times titled “New wilderness would close bike trails” – “For the most part, there are only a few trails that would be affected, though some are popular and have been well-used over many years.”
As I rode Hay Park, documenting and pondering the situation at hand, I was impressed with how the wilderness boundaries stayed clear of the main mountain biking trails. Though as further reported by Stonington, a major source of conflict arises when a “bandit,” or unofficial, trail gets caught in the boundaries. As I was riding and examining the possible “bandit” trails, I documented many horse and cow prints, but no bike tread, though I know of mountain bikers who could possibly be riding or have ridden trails that cross into the potential Hay Park Wilderness Area.
While it is hard to put a price tag on an area like this, I believe due to the outstanding opportunity for solitude the potential Hay Park Area already provides, it is an area worth working together to preserve as wilderness for future generations. We are at a crucial impasse in this valley to either try to add wilderness areas now, or eventually lose the solitude and wildness that exists for current generations as population and use of areas continues to expand.
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On Sunday I found a Hay Park whose greatest challenge seems to be dealing with cows, not the many mountain bikers and hikers who were out enjoying the day. As a mountain biker and wilderness advocate, I would ask the mountain biking community in the Roaring Fork Valley to continue putting their energies into working with the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign to seek out solutions to put wilderness aside.