Proper trail ethics start with basic foundations. A commitment to sustainability. Sharing. Mutual support and respect. Hard rules can’t capture every situation, but basic guidelines offer a good start. Many offer good guidelines, here are a few examples:
It can make sense to “break” these “rules.” The most highly evolved trail user often yields. A climbing runner theoretically has the right of way encountering a descending biker, but that runner might logically decide that biker (a) is wearing a speed induced grin; (b) seems intently focused on trail about 14 feet ahead; (c) will have to work a lot harder than me to stop & restart; and (d) I can use a break. An evolved user is aware of all management prescriptions, trail condition reports or forecasts, or scheduled events that might affect the trail experience. He or she will be situationally aware, including learning about the natural setting, local species, customs, and others s/he encounters along the trail. Some efforts to connect with other users might only involve quick eye contact or a brief wave, while others can become a discussion or exchange of information, needed supplies or other assistance. One will typically reap greater satisfaction by doing some homework and investing in the experience.
In contrast, a less evolved user suffers tension on the trails. There are problems out there and they are usually someone else’s fault. Have you ever headed run into a swarm of other users on your favorite trail conducting some relentless group outing or event? Always flowing the wrong direction. What a bummer, how could they have been so inconsiderate? Would have been nice to know about the event, right? You might have learned about it by checking the manager’s or organizing club’s website. Or in a casual conversation a couple weeks earlier with some other users you randomly engaged at the trailhead. There are many different types of encounters on trails and in life. You have a lot of control over the types of encounters you will experience, or avoid. And complete control over your reaction to them.
Start making the trails even happier. We should be making connections, not breaking into our smaller cliques. How many smiles did you create today?