I was riding along with a friend of mine on a new trail he found, reveling in the fact that we were wheeling and not worrying about work or anything else. As we were discussing what we really liked about wheeling, we bantered about the outdoors, rocks, mud, sand, camping, fixing rigs on the trail, and all that goes with our hobby. He finally came up with the best phrase that said it all: "It's my passion!" And I couldn't help but agree with him, as wheeling is my passion too-not just a job or pastime, but a true passion. I'd like to feel that most true wheelers feel the same way and not just as weekend warriors bent on tearing things up, but as well-rounded people that wheel for the sake of wheeling.
Naturally, the problem is the small minority of people who either never learned or are new to the wheeling world and don't understand the importance of making a good impression of ourselves. And by that I mean the few knuckleheads that litter the landscape with trash and beer cans, tear up trails for the purpose of destruction, abuse private property by trespassing, and generally don't give a damn about much of anything, other than themselves. These are the people who cause grief for wheelers as a whole, and gives radical environmentalists and their unknowing armchair brethren to push (and succeed in) land closures across the nation.
So what can we do about it? And why should we? The point is that when a trail anywhere is closed it simply gives credence to the anti-groups and that momentum helps other groups to close other trails. You may not care what happens to trails on the other side of the country, but eventually the threat will be there, and it's all because people are more concerned with their own backyard wheeling spot. In In Box this month, a few letters deal with saving our trails and what you can do about it. Two important concepts are paramount: Policing ourselves while teaching others the proper concepts, and joining a club or group that holds this passion of ours for the betterment of all wheelers. In other words, do something! Simply join the United Four Wheel Drive Association (www.ufwda.org ), Blue Ribbon Coalition (www.sharetrails.org ), Tread Lightly! (www.treadlightly.org), and your local 4WD club. Heck, start your own group like the Friends of the Rubicon (www.friendsoftherubicon.com) did, with exceptional results on saving one of the most famous trails around. These organizations and others help us all enjoy and protect our trails, and we should support them. Here is the Code of Ethics from the Blue Ribbon Coalition:
1. I will respect the rights of all recreationists to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. I will respect public and private property.
2. I will park considerately, taking no more space than needed, without blocking other vehicles, and without impeding access to trails.
3. I will keep to the right when meeting another recreationists. I will yield the right-of-way to traffic moving uphill.
4. I will slow down and use caution when approaching or overtaking another recreationist.
5. I will respect designated areas, trail-use signs, and established trails.
6. When stopping I will not block the trail.
7. I will not disturb wildlife. I will avoid areas posted for the protection of wildlife.
8. I will pack out everything I pack in, and will not litter.
9. I realize that my destination objective and travel speed should be determined by my equipment, ability, the terrain, weather, and the traffic on the trail. In case of an emergency, I will volunteer assistance.
10. I will not interfere with or harass others. I recognize that people judge all trail users by my actions.
11. Motorized trail users should pull off the trail and stop their engines when encountering horseback riders. It is also a good idea to take off your helmet and greet the riders.
Our wheeling community has more members and power than many of the fringe anti-access groups, but until we band together in a single unified voice, our wheeling opportunities will continue to decrease. Eventually, we won't have a place to wheel, and life as we know it will cease to exist. Don't let this happen, because just like you, wheeling is my passion.