By CHRIS KASTNER
Thank you, George Wuerthner, for clearing up some confusion about who I am. I did not realize I am a mechanized, two-wheeled, human-powered hellion bent on “shrinking wilderness” for my own “self-gratification.” I’m pretty sick of people like you telling me what to think and how to feel about my wilderness experience. You diminish and delegitimize my wilderness experience simply because I get there on a bike under my own power, just as a hiker. I impact the back country much less than anyone else on two, or especially, four legs.
Coming from Bend, Ore., a true mountain biking Mecca full of flow trails, skills features and probably, conservatively guessing, five times the miles of single track available to bikers here, you see your fair share of gravity folks who “relish speed and daredevil antics.” I know—I have ridden there and love it, too. But here it is different. No matter how new and technologically advanced the bike is, you still have to power it with your legs, heart and lungs. Riding on the existing trails in the White Clouds is an extremely demanding physical endeavor that no thrill-seeking, gravity-driven daredevil will ever attempt.
The people I know and ride with are as much advocates for protection of wild lands as anyone. My friends and I ride in these mountains for all the same reasons you would have us be limited to walking in them. It is holy ground, rare and beautiful, but not unspoiled. Man has left his mark in them with numerous roads, mines and over-grazing. These mountains certainly need protecting but not from mountain cyclists. These mountains are beloved and the value they hold is especially high because they are still open and accessible by bike for multi-day bike camping or long one-day outings. Now you see us, now you don’t.
The Boulder-White Clouds are truly awesome and deserve protection, not elitist isolationism. I am 60 now and have had five hip surgeries, so hiking deep with a heavy pack is neither fun nor doctor-recommended. If I want to have a by-definition wilderness experience, and I do some times, I can cross the street from the White Clouds and hike to church in the Sawtooths. I do like to ride my bike to church also, so please refrain from attempting to take that away from me, just because you obviously have a problem with bikes. I will not ever be joining “Mountain Bikers for Wild lands.” If your letter was a pitch for your group, then you definitely did not throw a strike to me or anyone I know and ride with.
So, how do I feel about national monument status for the Boulder-White-Clouds? The way the conversation started with the idea of closing the Castle Divide Trail, the one trail that links all the trails in the heart of this place to bikes, for openers, then it’s a “not interested so far.” But I am keeping an open mind.
Valley resident Christ Kastner owns and operates a restaurant in Hailey.