CT #18: Road Wariness

Every time I leave for a long backpacking trip, people wonder about my safety and my fears. Generally, I feel comfortable saying that I don’t feel afraid in the wilderness. I don’t consider this being foolhardy; I think it’s more the result of understanding the risks and doing my best to mitigate them.

People always ask whether I’m afraid of large animals — moose or bears or mountain lions. I try to explain that it’s the little ticks that they should be asking about.

People then ask about the other hikers, whether I’m afraid of them. No, I explain. It’s been my experience that, with a few exceptions, most people who come all the way into the woods are too tired to cause trouble.

In fact, most of the dangerous situations I’ve heard about on trail have happened close to roads, where people can access the trail with much less effort. For this reason, I make a habit of always sleeping at least a mile from trails.

The Colorado Trail has made this a little challenging, as Jeep roads criss-cross the state’s backcountry, but it’s still possible to plan campsites accordingly.

But, last night, two dirt bikes vroomed past my campsite after dark. This made me uncomfortable.

Hikers and mountain bikers and horseback riders all have to put in a lot of sweat equity to get out here. Motorcyclists can get up hills much more easily, and their speed is so very different from ours. Suddenly, in my mind, the whole trail may have been a road, and it was no longer safe to camp near it, at least until I’m out of dirt bike and ATV country.

I have nothing against any of these machines or their riders. It’s just that I felt afraid and vulnerable when I usually don’t. Do other hikers feel this way? If so, how do you overcome it?

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