We had gone on a ride earlier that day, so even though it was beautiful outside, I told The Hammer I needed to stay home and work on my book.
So she went to Lambert Park — a terrific little park about a mile from where we live — without me, taking Nikita — the approaching-elderly Malamute The Hammer brought to our marriage — on a walk on her own.
Now, Alpine, Utah is a tiny town, with the feel of Mayberry. People are nice in general. A little more laid-back than most places. You kind of need to be that way if you’re going to live in a town without a single grocery store or restaurant in it.
And if the people in Alpine are friendly and easy-going, the Lambert Park trail system is even more that way. People bring their kids here to learn to mountain bike. Cyclists come here when they don’t have time to go up American Fork Canyon or to Corner Canyon. People come here for a short ride on their horses.
And people come here to walk their dogs.
And until The Hammer got home from her walk this particular day, I had never heard of anyone being anything but incredibly friendly to each other at this park.
Encounter 1: Rodeo Down
So The Hammer is walking Nikita in Lambert Park. One of the popular trails there is called “Rodeo.” It’s got both an “Up” trail and a “Down” trail. She’s walking down the Down trail when she hears a bike coming.
As a cyclist, The Hammer knows this is a fun trail to go fast on, so she holds Nikita by the collar and moves off the trail.
As the 60-ish year-old man goes by, The Hammer starts, “Have a good…”
“You shouldn’t be on this trail!” The man interrupts, yelling.
Perhaps this man thought he owns the trail. Perhaps he didn’t realize that Lambert Park is multi-use and people walk (and trail run) on all of the trails here, all the time.
Perhaps he didn’t realize that around here, people don’t yell at each other.
And almost certainly, he thought he could shout at a lone woman without consequence.
“First of all,” The Hammer replied, “I have every right to be on this trail. Second, I got out of the way for you, even though pedestrians have the right of way.”
“People ride fast down this trail!” The man yelled back. “I could have hit you!”
“Kids ride on this trail,” shot back The Hammer. “And sometimes there are cyclists stopped in the trail. If you can’t control your speed and avoid someone, you’re going too fast.”
At which point, the man started up again, continuing down the trail (with a woman — possibly the man’s wife — riding behind, avoiding meeting The Hammer’s eyes.
And The Hammer continued her walk.
Encounter 2: Rodeo Up
At one of the places the trails cross, Hammer switched over to Rodeo Up. Once again, she heard a bike coming. Once again, she took her dog by the collar and moved out of the trail.
And once again, it was the man.
“Are you going to yell at me for being on your trails again?” asked The Hammer.
“No,” said the man, riding by. “I don’t care if you’re on Rodeo Up.”
And then, as he passed The Hammer, he said it: “Bitch.”
Astonished, The Hammer looked to the woman riding behind the man. “You should be embarrassed to be with that man,” The Hammer said.
“He’s just trying to keep the trails safe for everyone,” replied the woman.
For pretty much the rest of the day — and the day after that — The Hammer and I found ourselves constantly talking about this encounter. We just couldn’t believe it. We kept asking each other questions, like:
- Would he have said any of this if both of us were there? We kind of suspect not.
- Did he really think he was making anything safer for anyone? Again, we kind of suspect not.
- Was he surprised that he didn’t get away with shouting at a lone woman? We expect he was.
- Why would he do this? That’s the real poser of a question, the one we keep talking about. Why would anyone on a trail ever be anything but glad to see another person — a person who had already yielded — on a trail? Was he just in a foul mood and wanted to spread it around?
Obviously, we don’t know the answer to any of these. And I kind of doubt that a guy like that would read my blog (and frankly hope a person like that doesn’t). But in the off chance that he does, well, congratulations. You have the honor of being the first person I’ve ever come across at Lambert Park who was anything but friendly and polite.
That’s behavior I would expect from someone yelling from a car window — not from someone in a small town, riding on a neighborhood trail.