Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Happy Trails

I live in Colorado Springs, which is the second largest city in Colorado. We're nestled into the foothills Rocky Mountains, have little traffic, 300 days of sun a year, pot is legal (although recreational weed has to be purchased outside the city limits, don't worry it's a quick drive over to neighboring Manitou Springs) and there are lots of gorgeous trails to hike. Which probably accounts for why Colorado ranks in the top 10 happiest states to live in.

I like to get out and hike at least once a week, preferably not on a trail that is infested with rattlesnakes or where there's been a recent mountain lion sighting.  The truth is, it doesn't matter if anyone has seen a cougar or not, because they're around and they'll see you long before you see it.  Then there's the bears.  Sure, you can hike with bear spray to protect yourself in case of a bear attack.  But, it's really a false sense of security.  One of my kids "accidentally" sprayed my youngest with bear spray a few summers ago.  She wasn't even 100 lbs. at that time and it didn't even take her down,  but it did piss her off.  So, I can't imagine it would do any good with a 350 lb. bear.  Basically, I like to live in denial and pretend these threats don't exist and go out on the trail anyway because hiking is my happy place.

 On some of the more remote trails, you won't run into another living soul.  
But on the more popular trails, you're bound to run into other people.  
And that's when things get weird.  
Because people ruin everything.

There are the people who don't pick up their dog's shit.  People who think they take priority on the trail and that you should go out of your way to give them the right of way.  Like they think they're better than you because they're running the trail training for an Ironman competition.  And everyone is training for something here because it's also one of the fittest states.  Then there's the mountain bikers who come out of nowhere and sneak up behind you.  Or the people who are on their phone.  I don't want to hear your phone conversation when I'm shopping at the grocery store, so I sure as hell don't want to listen to it while I'm hiking.  

But, I think the worst trail offense comes from other hikers who don't acknowledge your existence at all.  Common American trail etiquette says that if I'm hiking in one direction and you're hiking in the other direction and we cross paths, some kind of cursory salutation is in order.  It could be "hi", "beautiful day isn't it" or just a smile.  But in my experience, this exchange of basic pleasantries only occurs about 60% of the time.  The other 40% of the time the other hiker, walking quietly on a path, walks right past you (stepping off to the side to avoid any chance of accidentally swinging an arm into you), careful to avoid eye contact so they can pretend they don't see you.  And this is what happens in one of the happiest states in America.  What the hell is it like hiking in Mississippi, Kentucky and West Virginia?  Which are three of the least happy states.  And do people even hike there?

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