Monday, October 8, 2007

Post Trip Summary: The Route, General Comments

It is very satisfying to have a route mapped ahead of you, and all the freedom in the world to move forward along that path. Get up in the morning, ride through the landscape until you're tired, find a place to set up camp, eat some dinner, and go to sleep. Over and over again. No schedule, no obligations, no worries. This feeling doesn't develop on a one or two week trip. You need enough time to establish the rhythm and sense of freedom. It is similar to the lifestyle and sense of freedom of the road we've had on our month long walks on the long distance paths in England and France.

The scenery is lovely. However, it isn't as lovely as what you will get backpacking where you can get out into wilderness areas away from the cows. None of the mountains were as nice as the southern high Sierra Nevada (our stomping grounds), not by a long shot. So if you want beautiful mountain scenery, get out your hiking shoes and backpacks and head to the high Sierra (or the Wind River range in Wyoming, or Glacier National Park, or your favorite high mountains). New Mexico was lovely, but not nearly as lovely as being on foot down in the slot canyons of the Colorado Plateau. However, as a whole package the ride through all those diverse landscapes was a beautiful and wonderful experience.


About those cows... This opens a rather large emotional/philosophical/religious can of worms. It seems that people have "messed with" every acre of land they can reach - put each acre to it's best economic use, be it mining, timber, housing, ski resort, golf course, strip mall, etc. If an acre doesn't offer any other significant economic value, then you can always put some cows out there and graze it. The ranchers we talked to were extremely nice people who are doing what everybody else does -- earning a living and raising their families. Each rancher and each cow does no more damage than the rest of us do when we go about our business of building a house and earning a living somehow. But grazing in dry climates alters the fragile top-soil and subsequently the entire eco-system. That's fine for any individual ranch. But when you see it on every single acre for a thousand miles in a row -- well it really hits home that we humans have left very few acres of land alone for nature to take her course. This was a very depressing part of the trip for us. The only significant grazing-free stretches were the parks in Canada, Teton/Yellowstone, a section in Gila National Forest in NM, and a section in Coronado National Forest in Arizona (off route). Those sections may have represented a total of perhaps 200 miles in our 3100 miles of riding - not much. Those were precious beautiful sections that we cherished.

2 comments:

Michelle Dodd said...

I think you've summed up the cattle situation very well. I personally got to be really annoyed and disgusted with the cows covering nearly every mile of this route. I grew up and have always lived in the West so cattle are nothing new for me, but I just didn't expect them to be everywhere as thickly as they were. I grew tired of the smell and the constant threat of them darting right in front of the bikes at the very last minute. I certainly won't be supporting this industry by eating beef any more. Not that I ate much before, but this sealed it for me. I think Dave and I are both ready for a long hike in some wilderness after this trip.

Donnica said...

Thanks for writing this.