The Outdoor Observer
Loving our outdoors, maybe a little too hard
I am not the biggest outdoor guy, but for the most part I would rather be hiking or riding my ATV around the desert or the mountains than watching a movie during warm and sometimes even cold weather. I have been that way since I was a kid.
Activity is an important part of my life. My long hiking days are behind me because a couple of bum knees are limiting my length of both travel and climbing ability. But by riding the machines, I can still be out there.
There are a lot of reasons people ride ATV/UTVs. Some do it to get to remote fishing or hunting spots. Others do it for the scenery and to look at the wild life. Still others do it just to ride and ride and ride. Finding the next challenging trail is the mantra.
I have done it for most of those reasons over the years. My life on motorized wheels began in 1965 on a Cushman Trailster on my dad's farm. He bought it for me when I was 14, because I nagged him to death about getting a "motorbike" of some kind. The first time I got on it I almost killed myself because I ran it into an old combine he had sitting at the side of the farm yard and one of the rods that were sticking out from the machine came about 5 inches from going through my chest.
As I moved up I went to small street bikes (when I got my license) and then in the early 1970s onto dirt bikes. My first true dirt motorcycle was a 1968 120 Kawasaki. After that came a procession of Japanese and Spanish motorcycles, with my two wheel career basically ending when I sold my OSSA Phantom for a song a number of years ago.
I went without for a few years, getting mad and then numb each time I saw a bike passing me on the road or tearing through the desert. I was relegated to a Jeep Wrangler, not a bad way to go, but not what I wanted to do. Then came the four wheelers. And since then I have been in love with those (although I secretly would still like to be on two wheels but no one in my family will allow me that because they fear old clumsy me might fall of and get hurt).
The years between mechanized travel were filled with lots of day hikes and backpacking. I love that just as much, but again age and poor joints make it more difficult than it used to be.
Last weekend I went out of the area to ride with some friends and ended up on the back side of Willard Peak in Box Elder County. The road goes to the top of the peak from Mantua, a beautiful little town that lies between Brigham City and Logan in Sardine Canyon. The day was magnificent as we started and my side by side climbed up every grade with ease. I had gone there the first time last spring on a weekday, and had been blocked from reaching the summit by snow banks. I had seen about four other machines that day.
Saturday was different. After reaching the summit of the peak and looking out over a smoke filled valley that contained most of the northern Wasatch Front and the Great Salt Lake, I noticed how many machines were coming into the parking lot at the viewpoint. I did about a mile hike, trying to head toward Ben Lomand Peak, but thought better of the trip. When I returned there were even more machines.
On the way back down the road we stopped for some lunch at a corner where the view of the Ogden Valley was tremendous. As we sat there and ate our sandwiches it seemed every kind of four wheeler, UTV, dirt bike and four wheel drive truck passed in a rush to the top. Not 30 seconds went by without some kind of machine going by.
The discussion turned to the way it used to be. It used to be quiet even on weekends. You would only see a few vehicles a friend said. There was sadness in that proclamation.
Machines have made the great outdoors accesible to many who would never have ventured into those same spaces only a few years ago. It has changed the nature of our recreation and how we see the mountains and deserts that surround us. We often hear laments about that we Americans are loving our national treasures in the outdoors to death. After seeing what I saw Saturday there may be some truth to that.
But how would one change it? In fact would one want to? We live in a country, unlike many others, where public land in the west is everyone's to enjoy. And why shouldn't the populace do that. People talk about the American dream. To some that is owning a house, getting a college education or owning a business. To me the American dream is having untold and literally unlimited country to see and the right to go see it. Unlike many states in the midwest and east and in many foreign countries, we have that ability here because the land is not almost all privately owned. Whether it be state or federal we have the right to be there, as long as we obey the rules.
I admit the crowded outback can be a dilemma sometimes. But when I spend a few days out on the San Rafael alone with my dog on my four wheeler in the early spring or in mid-winter and I only see one or two other souls in that time I realize that dream still actually exists.
We are lucky, those of us that live here, in this place, at this time.