Whether you’re heading out for an evening ride at Hartman Rocks near Gunnison or for one amidst the fall colors up on Trail 401 above Crested Butte, please remember that not only are you sharing these amazing landscapes with other recreational users, but you’re also sharing them with working people.
“People who have made this valley their home and who have scratched out a living on these lands for more than 100 years.”
When you drive between Gunnison and Crested Butte on Highway 135, notice the rural character and general lack of development in our valley. This is in stark contrast to the Roaring Fork Valley, just over the Elk Mountains from Crested Butte, where development is nearly non-stop between Glenwood Springs and Aspen.
The difference in the Gunnison Valley is that we are still home to family cattle ranching operations that graze cattle on public lands. This means there is a very good chance you will encounter not only cattle, but also stockmen doing the day to day summer and fall work: riding fences, moving herds and keeping track of their animals.
So the next time you are cursing the cow pies on the trail or lamenting having to open and then close a gate or riding upon cowboys moving a heard, give some thought to what this valley would look like if all of the ranching families up and sold all of their property in this area. Then, imagine one of these cowboys riding his horse into your place of work one day with wild abandon and no regard for what you and your colleagues are trying to accomplish. Call it a stretch but it’s really not that different.
Here are the basic of riding mountain bikes in grazing country:
- Always be aware, ride in control and expect to encounter animals or stockgrowers at any time out on the trails.
- Be friendly and courteous to any ranchers and cowpokes you meet out on the trail. Imagine random people flipping you off and saying rude things to you while you’re at work. Not cool.
- Close all gates unless they are signed and currently dated stating that they can stay open.
- Never run cattle. They’re not so bright and will often stay just ahead of you on the trail. Just stop and allow them to move well off of the trail before you continue.
- If suddenly you find yourself in a cattle drive, don’t just forge ahead against it. If cowpokes are around, ask them what they want you to do. It’s best if you can turn around and avoid it altogether. Just go find another trail or ride.