Poaching by Mountain Biking in Designated Wilderness Areas

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Patagonia and “Mountain Bike” magazine both published an essay from a Mountain Biker on why he no longer “poaches” trails designed for hikers only in Wilderness areas.

By Michael Ferrentino

THERE WAS NO DISCERNIBLE DIFFERENCE between the trail I had been riding and the trail that stretched ahead of me. There was a sign, though, hanging from a thin wire fence, and a wooden ladder for hikers to climb over. The small yellow-and-black sign read, “Wilderness Boundary.” This was somewhere along the Pacific Crest Trail in the southern Sierra Nevada, south of Mammoth, north of Mexico, on a clear alpine summer day in 1994. I glanced around to check for hikers or horses, quickly lifted my bike over the fence, and kept riding.
I’d be lying if I said that was a one-time deal. Twenty-five years ago, I used to poach wilderness areas often and self-righteously. Sometimes the trails would be really, really good. Sometimes the poach would result in a long, difficult hike made slower and much more awkward by the bike I was forced to carry. Didn’t stop me. I felt like it was my right, my social entitlement, to access this public land by bicycle—an entirely human-powered act I believed left less impact than horses, maybe even hikers, and was part and parcel of the Wilderness Act’s original intent. 

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