On the Trail: On a tight leash | AspenTimes.com

On the Trail: On a tight leash

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” With the economy the way it is, I’ve been spending my free time doing things that are relatively cheap, if not free. And enjoying the great outdoors is one of those free benefits of living in Aspen.

But if you have dogs (which I don’t but act as a pseudo-owner to many), a hike in the backcountry with one of them can cost you the equivalent of a raging night on the town. So I learned Saturday when I was caught in the act hiking with two friends’ dogs off leash.

I spent about three hours in the Hunter Creek Valley with the canines roaming carefree with no problem. It wasn’t until I was crossing Lone Pine Road near the trailhead of Hunter Creek that I was busted by Pitkin County rangers.

They were nice enough about informing me of the law, which forbids dogs to be off leash on any area trail (except for Smuggler Road). They asked me if the dogs had been off leash the entire hike to which I replied they had been. I could have lied but I figured that might only get me in more trouble.

The ranger said he’d give me a warning this time but next time, it would be a $100 fine. He said he needed my name to put into his hand-held computer. Again, I thought about lying and giving him a fake name. I refrained only because I thought I could get in more trouble if he found out I was bull-shitting him.

Now I’m in the system and with one false move, I’ll be $100 poorer. So, guess what? I won’t be hiking with the dogs anymore. The canines that I hike with are better behaved off leash than they are on. So the ones losing on this one are my furry friends.

Pitkin County ranger John Armstrong said the leash law is necessary because not all dogs get along with others. This is a case of a few bad apples spoiling the whole bunch.

“We want the maximum amount of fun with a minimal amount of conflict,” he said of all the user groups who use the trail systems here.

Armstrong noted that the presence of rangers has helped keep problems to a minimum, including a relatively poop free Smuggler Mountain Road.

So just keep in mind that if you plan to hike leash-free, the first offense if caught is $100, $500 for the second infraction and $1,000 for a third violation.

Happy hiking.