Sunday, July 09, 2006

Putting a Stake Thru the Heart of a Road

It doesn't always result in a dead road. Frequently, when wandering the forests, you'll come across a dead stake, instead. Backroad rage maybe. "These forests belong to me. The people, not the Forest Service!" I'll admit to similar reactions at times.

Some drivers know the secret of a stake driven through the heart of a road, like the broken one my grandson is holding up for admiration. It's this -- the stake is usually on a flexible hinge & it pops back up after one drives over it. A paper tiger, that's what it is! After all, the G-Men in Green may have to drive up the forbidden lane that we the people are supposed to walk.

So it gets driven over, again and again, & finally gives out. Or, just as likely, someone slays it with a well placed rock or two.

My late husband and I did a lot of exploration in the woods hereabouts. Mind you, we had been city folks most of our lives and came west in our 50s -- we weren't in the greatest of shape. We figured that we were usually good for about one or two miles out and the same back, depending upon the terrain and the heat. So we counted upon any one of our little Subaru wagons to get us close to whatever the day's objective might be. Forest Service and topo maps were our guide.

Believe me, it can be damned frustrating (and, yes, enraging, at times) to discover, after several miles of creeping on a rutted back road, that the turn-off route you had carefully selected had been decomissioned. A stake. Or a big fat, impassible berm. All at the whim of some uniformed bureaucrat. Admittedly, we didn't kill the dang things.

Even more frustrating was to set forth on an expedition to a favorite place, only to discover that, Oops, our usual route had suddenly been declared taboo. Complete with the usual brown stake. Or a fat, impassible berm.

That's what leads to the sense of being gradually closed in -- a common affliction of older people or of old-timers in a locale. On the one hand, some less popular backroads get blacktopped -- and crowded -- while others have stakes driven through their hearts. I hate it!

Examples abound. For instance, once it was possible to drive all the way to Mint Creek from the Williamson Valley trailhead. About a mile. Today, the trailhead has been gussied up, but you have to wear yourselves out walking the dull mile to what had once been your take-off point. (We always figured that complaints from posh WV homeowners who had paid big bucks to back on the forest had something to do with that particular closure...)

And, we never got down to the Verde Hot Springs ruin near Childs, being too chicken to try fording the Verde. Yes, there had been a forest road from the West to this one-time resort. But -- it was bermed. I suspect the idea was to keep the hippies and their successors out -- a forlorn hope. After all, they were/are young and reasonably buff. It sure worked on us, however.

Here's a picture of the road that started off this rant. Yes, I certainly am able to see why the PNF wants to close it -- look at the ruts and erosion.

I can see the point of view of those who are younger and buffer -- no-vehicles-allowed keeps the crowds down and hikes more solitary. (I like my hikes solitary, too, unless I happen to sprain an ankle one mile out!)

City folks like the black top so that they, too, can enjoy the outback -- without layering their big cars in dust.

In short, you can't win!

It's the Tragedy of the Commons (a famous essay by Garrett Hardin) in a microcosm. Land that belongs to all is too often exploited by all, with a result no one wants.

Note: the AZ Fish and Game Department will hold 12 open houses on the subject of roadless areas in the forests. The Prescott meeting: 6-9 p.m. Thursday, July 20, in the county building, 1015 Fair St. All public comment must be in writing -- to avoid grandstanding, says AFGD.

1 comment:

Karen of Scottsdale said...

I have a similar problem when I go down an unfamiliar sidewalk in my neighborhood and discovered there is no curb cut at the opposite end of the block.

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