[Cdt-l] Montana Wilderness Association accepts bikes on the CDT because the local agency does

Brett blisterfree at yahoo.com
Wed Jul 11 01:00:09 CDT 2012

OK - Can't resist any longer.

As we know, the CDT isn't formalized, regulated (or finished) in the same way as the AT and PCT. To a large extent this is due to its wilder nature, resisting all things urbane and humanly contrived (other than the occasional mile or two of purpose-built trail). We paint onto this canvas what we will. Many thru-hikers see in the trail's wilder nature a call for the upholding of wilderness virtues, even where Congress - in their foolishness, it could be - made no such decree. Others see the CDT as the next big thing, a ball of clay for them to mold as they please, perhaps in the direction of shared use including bicycles, fully accommodated, wherever possible. This may even be somebody's mission in life. 

To which the measured response might be: let's respect the trail's historical character and usage as we plow our way inevitably forward. Cyclists doing the bulk of the trail-building grunt-work in certain sections is a good thing, so long as the trail is constructed with the welfare of all user groups in mind. This is to say, don't build the trail in an overly roundabout manner, at a moronically gradual gradient (by common standards), or with various accoutrements aimed primarily at cyclists to the detriment of everyone else. Hikers a d equestrians generally can't tolerate cycling-specific singletrack for very long, especially as the overt accommodation of cyclists tends to favor heavy adoption by that user group, further rendering the trail section unfit for enjoyment by other user groups. 

It's also worth considering how trail development by cyclists can inevitably lead to mission creep. Since the goal is generally to get back at least as much as you put into the trail, cyclists understandably won't advocate for new trail construction within designated wilderness areas. One noteworthy concern - and this has and continues to play out somewhat controversially on other trails like the Arizona Trail - is that the permanent alignment of the official trail might be designated in an area of lesser scenic, aesthetic, or quiet recreational value - quite likely nearer to roads, vehicles, and attendant noise - rather than in wilderness areas, due to heavy advocacy by one user group who, through no fault of their own, stand at odds with the trail's historical model of sitting silently upon the most majestic parts of the Divide. 

I firmly believe the CDT has more than enough room to accommodate everyone, what few of us there are overall. But I don't think that the trail's most ardent and long-standing users, defenders, and - gasp - philosophers should of necessity be inclined to hike something other than the purpose-built CDT alignment for reasons of aesthetics, scenery, or quietude. Cyclists generally don't conflict with these attributes directly, but the cycling advocacy need to recognize the trail's natural center of balance and, in their zeal to develop something of greatness, avoid tipping things too heavily in one direction. 

- blisterfree
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