Echo Canyon Trail made me realize that my "hikes" of the past were really more like "nature walks." No bikes are allowed here (or dogs) because the terrain is pretty treacherous in places, and you even have to full-on scale boulders in a couple different areas - I've never done that before, so it was a cool (sweaty) new experience.
However.... something kind of bothered me...
On my 2,704 mile (ok, it was actually 2,704 feet) uphill climb, only TWO people (very old men) let me pass. Out of the probably 100 downhill hikers, only TWO allowed me to pass by them as I climbed uphill, leaving me to yield for 98 hikers headed to the base of the MTN. So I figured hiking must abide by the elevator rule - you know, out before in. Like, the people headed downhill need to come down before more people can make their way up (plus downhillers are going a lot faster and it's harder to yield). So on my way downhill, I figured I would breeze by everyone and be down in a jiffy.
Headed down, I was again left to yield to everyone on their way up. What is going on? I thought, Am I just a huge pushover, or is there no rule for who yields to who?
So I looked up the rules: Who yields to who on multi-use trails... and the findings were very interesting...
- Downhill yields to uphill, mainly because downhillers have a much broader range of visibility, even if they may be moving with more momentum, while people climbing uphill may be focused just a few feet ahead of them as they struggle up the trail. Since uphill climbers/cyclists are working harder, they should be given the right of way, according to Backpacker Magazine, AmericanHiker.org, and HikingDude.com. Sometimes uphillers prefer to take a breather and will let you pass, but it's their call.
- Cyclists yield to hikers, and both yield to horses. The idea here is that cyclists yield to hikers because a cyclist can injure a hiker, but it's unlikely that a hiker is ripping the trail so hard that they injure a cyclist. Everyone yields to horses because they are large and unpredictable and can injure everyone. More on Horses: Horses tend to "spook" due to their poor eyesight and reliance on instinct: horses cannot always recognize you with your bike and backpack as a human. So stop, dismount if you're on a bike, step aside, say hello to the equestrian (which also signals to the horse that you are a friendly human and not a wild mountain predator), and ask if they'd like to pass - since maybe she and the horse have a preferred method of approaching/passing others. Plus, a 200 pound person moving off the trail to let a horse pass conserves the trail better than a 1500 pound horse trampling off the path.
- Groups Yield to Singles and Pairs. The reason behind this is actually trail conservation. If you are in a group of hikers or cyclists and approach a single person, they may jump off the trail to let you pass, damaging the trail infrastructure and surrounding vegitation. However, if your group is riding single-file as is also part of trail etiquette, if you all stop, the single or couple can pass by with everyone staying on the trail and no damage done to surrounding wildlife. Plus, as someone who hikes and bikes alone most of the time, it does seem super rude when a family of like 8 passes by, chatting, playing music, as if I'm not even there.
- More on Trail Conservation: Pack In/Pack Out: Never leave any trash, cig butts or trail markers behind, including dog poop. Even if you think that shizz is biodegradable, or, in the case of actual shizz, "natural"... it's not the trail's job to do your composting. And it's irritating for the other trail users to see their parks degraded. Look, if you brought a spare tube in, or a full water bottle, or a FULL GU PACKET (my personal hugest pet peeve) you can certainly carry out the busted tube, and empty bottle and GU foil.
- Be Friendly! As I mentioned, there is nothing weirder than passing someone, literally brushing shoulders with them, so close to their face that you can hear the NIN in their earbuds... and they don't make eye contact... much less say hi. I find the a grin and the bro-nod work perfectly for stranger face-to-face trail interactions. Just smile, give an acknowledging nod, and keep it movin. Not painful at all, not even for an introvert like me!
- On the note of communication: Announce your Pass: Just like road cycling, when you do need to pass, call out "PASSING LEFT" (in a friendly way) and always pass on the left. Other hikers have told me they appreciate when cyclists use bells to announce their impending arrival.
- Just like driving: STAY RIGHT, single file. You would be shocked how many hikers, cyclists and equestrians still haven't learned this most basic of trail etiquette. Using a trail is just like driving a car: stay on the right side, and move left when you pass. I'm not sure how they do it on the other side of the pond, so take this with a grain of American salt. :) As for single-file, it obviously depends on how wide the trail is, but the rule is in place for safety. Especially on the bike, you need a little wiggle room to maneuver around more technical parts of trails and if your buddy is right next to you, you'll probably both go down... and if you two come upon a hiker, it's a three-way disaster.
I know there are a million more Trail Etiquette Tips, along with Road Riding Etiquette Tips, but this covers the basics of sharing a multi-use nature trail, and I'll get back to you in another post with the do's and don't's of road cycling!