On the trails I hike there are three different types of users, each of whom thinks they have prevailing right-of-way on the trail: hikers, bikers, and equestrians.
We humble hikers tend to be the most egalitarian in my opinion. We greet each other “good morning”, exchange directions, step to the side for faster passers-by, bid one another “have a good hike”, and generally proceed with a “This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land” air of grace and community.
Mountain bikers are all about speed. They aren’t there to make friends, they are there to make miles. They are slicked down head to toe with synthetic armor, they’ve got their earphones plugged, sun glasses on, and they are intense. BOY are they miffed when a goofy looking hiker comes lumbering downhill, blocking the narrow rocky trail that they have meticulously accelerated to ascend.
Equestrians are rulers of all that they survey. The riders themselves are probably very nice people, he horses don’t seem to care one way or the other what’s going on, but the combination of horse and rider makes for a tightly wound bundle of nerves. Some horses are afraid of things that flash, others of unusual noises, still others of people less than 4 feet tall… You never know what will set a particular horse into a panic, but the rider does, and he or she is ever vigilant for the offending article. Because most of us aren’t psychic, and because we are minding our own business on public property, we aren’t particularly concerned with guarding against the peccadillos of every specimen of livestock that may pass on the trail. Not to worry, the rider will be quite forthcoming with letting you know exactly what you will do to make his or her riding experience more acceptable this day. They will be very polite about it, but make no mistake, their request for accommodation will be an order that you will be expected to follow.
Conversations from the trail.
With a hiker:
Hiker: I have so much envy over your umbrella right now. Where did you get it?
Me: Golite.com It was only 20 bucks. Best thing I ever bought.
Hiker: I gotta get me on of those. Have a nice hike.
With a mountain biker:
Me: Aaaaaaaaaahhh! (Leaping to the side)
Biker: (pant) (sweat) (pant) (eyes obscured by aerodynamic sunglasses)
With an equestrian:
I hear a horse approaching unseen from around a bend. I step to the side to let it pass.
Equestrian: “Watch out. I’ll run right over you.”
A beat of smiling and eye contact.
Me: “Better not.”