Those damn...


(photo: Kelsey Ivey)Out at the end of Breakfield Road, there’s a new short trail to ride my mountain bike on. After years of riding the same trail system — awesome as it is, and fortunate-as-hell as I am to have it — just the merest new loop is a joy and a delight. It’s flowy and fun and fast, and I’ve taken it every time I’ve been in the area.Then, not too long ago, I’m out there on a ride and there, in the new trail, is a new hole. Perfectly shaped, oval.  Made by a horse hoof. Followed by more holes, especially in the mushy, wet areas. The new loop has been found. Damn horses.I need to admit something: I don’t always like horses.Let me be clear: about 95% of the time, I think horses are great. They’re intelligent, gorgeous creatures. As Alice Walker put it, horses make a landscape more beautiful. Plus, one of my favorite people in the world is a badass equestrienne who does ride-and-tie races. (Look it up sometime. Badass.)But: some of the trails that I share with horses and their riders make me say, ‘damn horses.’When the trails get wet — like earlier this year, when we had thirteen inches of rain here on the Cumberland Plateau — horse hooves are not friendly to dirt trail surfaces. In fact, they can cause a whole bunch of horse bomb-craters in the trail, sometimes four-inch-deep holes that are no fun to try to run or ride a mountain bike across.Also, understandably, other horses don’t like those horse bomb-craters either, so they spread out across the trail until there’s nothing but craters from edge to edge. No free pass, no way around or by.So: “damn horses.”But being me, I quickly followed that thought with another: do other people say “damn mountain bikers”? What about “damn trail runners”? If so, why? What do we do that might make people dislike us as much as I dislike horse bomb-craters?My friend Nate is the property manager where I ride and run. He’s the guy I text photos to of downed trees on the trail, and was the logical person to ask those questions. He said that the ruts caused by mountain-bike tires arguably are worse than horse bomb-craters, causing more erosion. It’s a discussion going on all across the West, where some people think mountain bikes should be permitted in wilderness areas — one argument being that since horses are allowed, bikes should be — and some people don’t.So it’s not clearcut. I’m not necessarily the good guy, those damn horses (or their riders) aren’t necessarily the bad guys. Then, again being me, I quickly (my wife the special-ed teacher thinks I might actually have ADD) went to yet another thought:What other ‘thoses’ am I a part of? As I just merrily go along, trying to live and be happy and not mess up other people’s lives, am I in fact cluelessly doing things that might make people disparage me as part of some group?“Damn beer drinkers.”“Damn bald guys.”“Damn Prius drivers.”When you stop and think about how people might lump you in with ‘those,’ for doing or being something that you assume is totally benign, something no one could possibly object to, it can quickly make you feel really humble.It can also cause you to think about giving your own ‘thoses’ a break.