This is a bit of a rant, so consider yourself warned. I've never been much of a dog person - being bitten a few times will cause that. But after a recent ride, I'm starting to realize it isn't usually the dogs that are the problem. Dogs simply become a reflection of their owner's curtesy - or lack there of. Which is completely inappropriate because it puts the dogs at risk because the owner wants to make a statement. The white dogs barreling out of the woods when their owner calls is one thing. They had so much energy and exuberance "we got to go in the pond!" excitement that I couldn't help but laugh. Besides it made for a good excercise in balance. I did hit one of them with my front wheel - apologized right away - but it was more of a tap.
No, this rant is about the hiker on St Mary's and him using his dogs as road blocks for everyone else on the trail. I saw him hiking down the trail and said hello. He looked back, met my eye and kept walking down the center of the trail - passing two wide sections where there was plenty of room to let us around. I understand that mountain bikers are supposed to yield - but at what point does common sense kick in? We've slowed to walking speed and its actually easier to pass when we are still on our bikes. We take up less room on the trails when riding our bikes then walking along side. Then after we'd gotten around him, we meet up with a group heading up. I knew to expect the little dog - he'd been strutting along in front of this group on the road. But it was the two big dogs that started sniff and introduce themselves that were blocking the trail. So we stopped and waited - as did the hikers. One of them even asked "did you want us to go around you?" To whit I responded "Just waiting for the dogs." And who's dogs were they? The hiker we'd just passed - who proceeded to walk around all of us and send his dogs further down the trail. So now we have to pass him and the dogs all over again. He pulls the same stunt, walking in the middle of the trail for a while, then finally stepping aside in a narrow section. As for the dogs - he let them continue running all over, in the middle of the trails, yards ahead of him. So polite. And so bad for the animals - using them as road blocks because you don't like other trail users is the height of arrogance.
I understand that some mountain bikers are fast, occasionally out of control. I also understand that to some hikers, our presence isn't welcome. But using your animals to enforce what you perceive to be appropriate isn't cool. Especially when it affects more trail users then just the mountain bikers your trying to aggravate. And why would you pull your dogs away from the other hikers, then just get back in front of us? We are going to have to pass you again - and if you don't like mountain bikers, wouldn't just letting us to first down the trail make for a better day all around? Now, it's not good to get upset on the trail - smile and nod, kill 'em with kindness - but really? To me, it seemed like you wanted us to get mad and give you the chance to lecture us on trail etiquette - and to prove that all mountain bikers are jackasses. Fine by me - I'm not gonna bite though. But putting the dogs at risk, that's different. That's completely inappropriate, regardless of the behavior of the other trail users.
I also wonder - how would he have reacted if we had be trail runners, decked out in al the modern trail running gear - not the staid, old fashioned hiking gear you were sporting? Would you have been polite or would the reaction had been the same? And if you had been polite, that says more about you the. Anything. I'll share the trail, just not with mountain bikers - and I'm willing to put my dogs at risk to make my point.