The Mountain Bike Life

In January of this year, I had an attack of the freaked out hiker. It was a beautiful Sunday morning in my fave wilderness bike/hike park and I was heading in on a back trail to spend nature time with my daughter Leah. She does not ride, so when we go native, it’s in hiking shoes and hiking hats together. ( It feels so S-L-O-W compared to biking!) But at the same time, when I hike in, I get to see things in slo-mo.Trees I never noticed when I fly by on my mtn. bike, sounds and scents that surround me in a caress that riding offers quickly..in passing. The sound and feel of my shoes on dirt instead of knobby tires, is just another way to relate to Mother Nature. It’s very cool as well; albeit slower.

Leah and me hiking Aliso Woods.jpg> Caption: Hiking shoes instead of biking shoes! | Photo: Al Patterson

Hiking shoes instead of biking shoes! | Photo: Al Patterson

SO….what happened that particular morning when an organized ride orchestrated by a local mtn. bike shop came ripping through the park and up the fire trail, mowing down, really, seriously, every other hiker, biker, on the trial, including a senior couple near us, made me so livid, I made a stink about it on FB and with the local park rangers.

I’ve added my letter here.

A letter to the Stewards of the Orange County Parks

CC to Rock N Road and IMBA

Yesterday, on Sunday January 4th, during one of my frequent hikes in Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness park, my daughter and I along with an elder couple hiking near us were accosted by a group of 100-200 aggressive mountain bikers as we were heading down a rather narrow section of the Wood Canyon trail. They were racing up the hill across the entire path and running everyone off the trail. We were very close to being hit. Other riders not in this group and runners and hikers were all forced into nearby bushes.

For the ten years I have enjoyed the beauty and restorative experience of hiking and riding my own mountain bike into ”Aliso”, there has been an occasional errant biker. But the majority of the experience has always been considerate and careful riders sharing the trails. But yesterday, Rock and Road cyclery hosted an A1 event in the park that included motosport riders, professional racing mountain bike riders and 200 of their customers to race and basically tear up the trail and everyone in their way. No courtesy shown, no patience with hikers, rude remarks from riders when we asked them to stay on one side. It was a free- for-all that left us all feeling sick that OC Parks had allowed a mob-mentality to unleash itself on our beloved park.

The OC Parks Vision Statement is to “Preserve Orange County’s Parks in perpetuity for the recreation, education, and inspiration of ALL visitors.” “As a steward of significant natural and cultural resources, Orange County Parks manages and operates a system of regional parks, beaches, harbors, trails and historic sites that are places of recreation and enduring value.”

The sacred space that is our community park system is a gift to our community I value a great deal. It is not a racetrack! I so love my wilderness park at Aliso and the positive healing and joy I’ve discovered biking and hiking in the park, that I wrote a book to share with the world about the healing power and joy there is for all if they will step off the sidewalk and onto a wilderness trail.

As a professional speaker on the subject of healing in the outdoors, and how being in nature provides better health and happiness, I teach others to seek peace and healing in the outdoors; in the wilderness. I am a member of the North American Chapter of the International Society of Nature and Forest Medicine and a teacher of Shin-rin Yoku, the Japanese term for healing in the outdoors.

Well, yesterday we were mowed down on that wilderness trail by a mob, who should have never been allowed to have hat large a number of aggressive racers on the trail on a very busy Sunday morning.

There were no signs posted that we would be walking right into the eye of a storm of riders. It created a very hazardous situation.

This is no place for that kind of event. This is a preserved space for respectful and careful guests who will do their part to preserve our wild, not rip it up and upset this precious and delicate eco-system.

Who will care for all we’ve saved in the wild if OC Parks, the steward who represents the people, does not?

No more racing! No more large crowds of bikers! Set a limit to the size of riding groups on weekends! No more Sunday events that crowd out everyone else on the most active day of the week!

SAVE OUR PARKS FOR ALL!!

A wilderness loving guest,
Colleen Hannegan

 

I know I made a few enemies (immature ones because mature and respectful, awesome, cool riders would not intentionally mow others down as my daughter and I witnessed that morning,) but as a lover and caregiver of this amazing space of wilderness that we’re so lucky to enjoy on our bikes, I could NOT not say something.

My riding ‘hood is ranked the second-best mountain bike destination in the world, after La Palma, Italy. Note cover story on the recent issue of our local paper, Laguna Beach Independent. Hans Rey, champion mtn. biker from Germany migrated here in 1990, followed by British Columbia biker Richie Schley, among others….so this story reports. Racer Brian Lopes lives in Laguna Beach, too.

Cover story on Laguna Beach Independent newspaper. Caption: Second-best mtn. biking destination in the world. | Photo: Colleen Hannegan

Second-best mtn. biking destination in the world. | Photo: Colleen Hannegan

But in order to SAVE all we’ve worked so hard to enjoy in the past 14+ years, there have to be reasonable limits to HOW we ride and WHEN we ride.

I also made a few friends, both hikers AND bikers who know how fragile this fine line of joint use of the trails can be. And as this recent article points out. “These trails were not built for this much use and there has been serious erosion,” says Hallie Jones, executive director of the Laguna Canyon Foundation, which supports OC Parks. The article goes on to point out her concern over hiker-biker conflicts and increasingly dangerous shared use.

Only if our mountain biking community fails to get real about race day and how it impacts out park use. There are going to have to be limits. The increased popularity of knobby tires and those who ride in on them will demand cooperation. That’s just common sense.

Otherwise, the thought of mountain biking being banned completely from local wilderness parks is only one serious accident away.

Wouldn’t that be a sad day?

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