Ah, Springtime. The trees are budding and the wood frogs have awoken from their winter slumber, as evidenced by the cacophony of sound coming out of the low bogs. House wrens and robins announce the arrival of each new day by chirping an hour before the break of dawn. The nearby Peach Mountain woodlands brim with the promise of life and renewal. With the bugs and thorny bushes absent, there's no better time than now to go for a hike.
Peach Mountain is one of our favorite places, for several reasons. While it has an ardent local following, not many people know about it (owned by the University of Michigan and open to the public, it isn't on any maps nor are there any public facilities). Miles of trails pass through mixed successional forests and old-growth pines. Black squirrels and whitetail deer scamper away from the trail as hikers pass. And the birds love the place- just in the last few days, we've seen a Barred owl, a pileated woodpecker, and countless bluejays and cardinals flittering about.
One of the other reasons we like the place so much is the trails are in such good shape- for now. When it's time to go for a hike or trail run, this makes a bigger difference than you might think. Good trails (like those pictured here) are even, flat, and free of ruts, rocks, and exposed roots. The likelihood of tripping and twisting an ankle or faceplanting into the dirt is minimal. Unfortunately, it appears this pristine condition is about to change, and for the worse: the sight of tire tracks from mountain bikes is beginning to be more and more common.
Pictured here (from last summer) is the Potowatami trail at the nearby Pinckney Recreation Area. Notice the contrast in condition: deeply rutted and eroded, with exposed rocks and tree roots jutting out. Why? Because every week, hundreds of mountain bikers tear through the woods, often with reckless abandon and total disrespect for the trails and other trail users. The Potowatami is known throughout the midwest as a premier mountain biking location, and years of use is beginning to take a serious toll on the terra firma.
We have nothing against mountain biking or the many responsible people who partake in it. It's a great way to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise. But there is a segment of these folks who believe they own the trails with complete entitlement. Time after time, we've seen idiots whiz by people at full speed, trying to brush them off the trail. We've seen countless bikers ignore posted signs requesting they stay off the trails during spring thaw or after a major rain event in an attempt to lessen erosion. And along with all this comes an attitude, as witnessed by the creed of a local mountain biking club.
Let's parse this out, shall we? This is too good to pass up comment!
The Hellriders is an organization born out of frustration with society and The Man that always wants to hold cyclists down. We want nothing more but the freedom to ride our bikes. We will aggressively pursue and defend this freedom, even if it means that we will be called "outlaws".
The Man, huh? Wow. That's a broad indictment. Are you referring to the same Man blamed for perpetuating economic disparity, poverty, the industrial prison system, etc? Aren't you being a little trite here? How about the "freedom to ride our bikes"- where in the constitution is this specified? You "will aggresively pursue and defend this freedom" blah blah blah. How? With an armed militia? "We will be called "outlaws"- so what laws exactly are you operating outside of?
Even in places where cycling is accepted, it is rarely embraced - only tolerated. National, State, and local public land managers "permit" biking on "designated" trails if "proper safety equipment is worn". Although studies have shown cycling can be just as low-impact as foot traffic (walking/hiking/running), pedestrians are not required to jump through similar hoops to access public lands.
It's rarely embraced, huh? What do you want- a cookie? It's only tolerated and permitted? So is everything else that occurs on public land. And for those "studies" that show cycling is just as low-impact as foot traffic...Yeah right! Who conducted those? The same research group that proclaimed smoking was non-carcinogenic?
The Hellriders were not born yesterday, what you see on this website is the culmination of years of pent up frustration born in the backwoods of Hell, Michigan. Hellriders don't seek trouble, just our freedom to ride. However, if that freedom is impinged upon, we won't hesitate to defend it. So, citizens, keep this in mind the next time you throw your fast food bag at one of us out of your car window. Remember these words when you block off our singletrack in order to keep us from riding. You've been warned. Don't give us static. When you trouble trouble, trouble troubles you.
Yikes. We are trembling in our Merrill boots. That bravado must come from all those years working at the bike shop or making lattes at Starbucks. How 'bout this, tough guy- next time you zoom up on someone from their blind side, slow down and give them time to move off to the side. Next time a hard rain falls, let the trails dry before heading out. That's how you'll earn our respect, buddy. And as for Peach Mountain, haven't y'all defiled enough trails?
Posted by River Rant at 4/16/2006 01:00:00 PM