One of my best outdoor recreation buddies is married to a cowboy and a true-blue horseman. More often than not, he criticizes our bi-pedal endeavors. When my friend shares our future plans with her hubby, he rolls his eyes at the idea of traveling 30 miles by foot and practically chokes on his own guffaw as he imagines us carrying 35-pound packs on our backs for five days straight.
I couldn’t imagine being married to such a man, and then I met the love of my life, Stuart. Turned out the joke was on me!
As he is good humored, kind and engaging, introducing my new beau to all of my friends was enjoyable. That is, excluding one. The 14-year-old son of some of my dearest friends had some astute observations. Besides noting Stuart’s lacking fashion sense and tobacco habit, the adolescent was quick to point out some additional glaring flaws with my sweetheart. Namely, he owned a 22-foot camping trailer and multiple motorized dirt bikes.
As our population expands and open spaces shrink, the U.S. Forest Service motto of “Land of Many Uses” now resonates with recreationalists in ways that never occurred to folks 50 years ago. Regardless of our preferred pastimes, we frequently find ourselves coming face to face with adventurers from disciplines vastly different than our own.
Take my friend, Wendy, and her husband as a prime example. Backpackers and horsemen regularly cross paths in the Cloud Peak Wilderness, and not always gleefully. Backpackers complain about heavy hooves trenching the trails and poop left behind. Horse packers become irritated with the lack of horse knowledge displayed by many hikers, as well as the dangers that can create.
Likewise, snowmobilers don’t enjoy slowing to a snail’s pace and moving to the edge of the trail when they encounter a skier any more than cross-country skiers like to hear or smell sled engines. Comparisons like these are plentiful.
It’s quite easy to give a stern look and mutter disparaging commentary under our breath when we are inconvenienced by an outdoorsman who we perceive to be negatively impacting our experience. But, where does that get you? And did it occur to you that the other person may be having the same reaction to seeing you?
The seventh principle of Leave No Trace is to be considerate of other visitors. In the same vein, Tread Lightly suggests respecting the rights of others as its second principle. (If you are unfamiliar with either of these organizations, I encourage you to look them up.) In essence, what it comes down to is following the Golden Rule.
We all share a common passion for experiencing the great outdoors. The next time you cross paths with someone engaged in an activity you don’t understand, I challenge you to strike up a conversation. Not only might you both learn something, you may make a new friend. If you’re as fortunate as Wendy and me, you may even find love.
Julie Greer is a member of the Wyoming State Parks & Cultural Resources Commission.