Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My "Show Me The ATV Nature Writing Challenge"

I'm feeling feisty tonight. So I was just thinking, how many miles of trails and acres of land in our Minnesota State Forests are now open to all terrain vehicles, through a process that virtually ignored the input from wildlife and fisheries biologists?

And what chance does a walking ruffed grouse hunter have against those who pass him/her on a state forest trail on an ATV, leaving a cloud of smoke and a ruined day behind?

And how many of these ATV riders claim that "We enjoy getting out and seeing nature on our rides!"

So here is the challenge I have for you: Much of our nature writing heritage has come from people who have hiked and paddled the wilderness, developing a reverence and respect for the land in the silent moments of community. But if ATV riders get such a kick out of connecting with nature, should not some thought-provoking writing come out of those experiences as well? Would that not be some justification for the destruction of land that occurs when motorized recreation becomes the norm? Do ATV riders pause for contemplation as they roar through the old growth forest?

Please, anyone, if you have any links to nature writing by those who choose to experience nature in a gasoline powered off trail vehicle, especially in Minnesota, please let me know.

And by the way, this writing does not represent the opinion of any employer I may have at the present time. Really, it doesn't. Believe me.

P.S. Welcome ATV listservers! I understand you scour the Internet looking for anyone who may disagree with you, and then gang up on them. Well, sorry, that's not tolerated here. I have a thick skin, I can take it, but I will only keep comments that address what it is that I am asking for here, or that further an intelligent discourse. And, will one of you be so kind as to forward me the original message that was posted to your group? My address is on the sidebar. And by the way, you're making my blog a hotter commodity by boosting my hit count.



Anonymous said...

I am not writer by any means, but I do enjoy nature with my family out riding our ATVs in the state forests. I grew up on a farm and moved to the big city. To most people the cement jungle is their paradise, but to me getting out in woods on a trail and seeing the beautiful sights is my passion. I work and have limited vacation. I would never have the time to walk the miles I’ve gone on my ATV. I would never have a chance to see all I have seen. This state is amazing and the vast majority will never have the opportunity I have had to ride the trails and see the beautiful trees, creeks and wildlife. I saw a bobcat in the wild for the first time while riding on the sandy logging trails in General Andrews State Forest. I stopped and he just looked at me for a second or two and then ran into the woods. I remember one time at Chengwatana State Forest, I was coming down a hill on minimum maintenance road with my kids following me on their machines. Here comes a deer running right at us. At first I was scared because I thought it was charging us. As we got close I realized it was just a confused doe and it finally turned and ran into the woods. As we ride the forests we also see the forests being harvested. The loggers cut in trails to move their heavy equipment and semi-trucks. The woods maybe pristine in one area but right next to it where they are logging it is all torn up and cut down. That is the nature of a forest. They aren’t just there to look at they are there to supply wood. The logging trails are there and new ones are created all the time, so let people ride them.

Deb said...

Anonymous- Thank you for taking the time to comment. You sound like a responsible rider, and it's good that your kids get to spend some time in the woods with you.

david said...

I am not necessarily a writer, but ATV activist. I see riding ATV's two fold, One: We all have the right to experience "Mother Nature" in our own way. Some People choose to Hike, some choose to Mountain Bike. I choose to ride ATV's with my family. Something that we can all enjoy at just about any age. My father-in-law at the age of 68 still can go just about anywhere I go. My 2 daughters, ages 15 and 10 have been riding with me since they were toddlers. They both look forward to our ATV trips because of the views, the leaves, wildlife, seasons that change, and the landscapes.

We ride responsibly and want to protect our sport. There are "bad apples" everywhere. Everything that we do. There are hikers that start forest fires, litter and destroy vegitation just the same. We all need to protect the environment. Be Responsible, that is what is important.

Remember: The more laws we pass to take away our free rights the more it encourages other laws in the future to continue taking away others rights.

God Bless our Country and our Freedom.


FearlessATV said...

Is there a way to attach files? I am the editor of a small local newspaper in NE MN and I have written a couple of columns about ATVing - not so much about enjoying the great outdoors, but as an ATV advocate. But in each column, I also include brief explanations of how much my family and I enjoy riding. I'd love to send them, since our newspaper is not archived on-line. I have also submitted two articles to Northern Wilds: the Outdoor Paper of the North about great rides I've been on.
There are a lot of us who love riding to get out in the woods. My husband and I ride alone or with friends and we delight in seeing deer, rabbits, grouse, owls, hawks, ducks, geese, bear, and moose. Just last weekend we saw a porcupine which was fun. He dawdled down the road ahead of us not bothered by our "gasoline powered" visit.
When we've seen moose, we stop. The moose calmly continues what he or she was doing - until we turn off our machines - then they run. Clearly our motorized travel doesn't bother wildlife and it enables us to see much more than we would otherwise.
ATVers love the outdoors as much as anyone else. Some of us are also hikers, bikers, marathon runners, skiers, etc. However, some of us cannot hike. Several of our club members have prosthetic legs; others have other medical problems. An ATV is the only way these folks can get out to enjoy the woods.
We like getting together with these friends for a picnic at a scenic stop overlooking Lake Superior or parked at a "rest stop" under old-growth White pines on a popular forest road route.
An ATV is a wonderful device - it's a toy, a tool, and transportation all rolled into one.

Dan Trabue said...


There is a love of wild nature in everybody, an ancient mother-love showing itself whether recognized or no, and however covered by cares and duties. It is this wild nature, I contend, that fuels my wild ATV, not mere gasoline.

My fumes spew gray joy into the pristine air, the bear and the bird and the boar hack and cough their delight in my presence.

I Climb the mountains atop my steel and rubber steed and I get their good tidings. Nature's peace flow into me as the gasoline into my tank. The winds will blow their freshness and my smoke upon you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off you as autumn leaves off the trees in my wake and unrelenting whine.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. And the fastest route is upon my roaring ATV.

In God's wildness lies the hope of the world--the great unblighted (but for my sole tire tracks across the mud-scarred ravines - and those of my comrades numbered in the thousands) unredeemed wilderness. I redeem it with my brazen scars, staking claim upon this Creation. For God and for Country and for ATVs!

Hallelujah and amen.

[With apologies to John Muir and feel free to delete - Dan]

Deb said...

Dan you troll! :)

Delete it? Heck no, that's the funniest thing I've seen since the Wal Mart song! Which I must resurrect some day. I'm still getting search hits for "baboon suit" too.

Deb said...

I just wanted to thank those who have commented. I was looking for perspective different than my own, and I have it now. And if you want to send me a file, my email address is on my sidebar.

And thanks for boosting my hit count!

Dan Trabue said...

I do wonder, on a serious note, if those folk (if you're still around) who like ATVs can understand how horrifying those of us who like our nature sounds in a more natural state find ATVs zooming around natural places.

I can certainly appreciate that there are some folk with disabilities who might benefit from some form of ATV, but seriously, what percentage of ATV enthusiasts are disabled? That sounds like a red herring, if I might say.

FearlessATV said...

Deb & Dan:
Why did you ask for comments if you are just going to mock the people who are seriously trying to have a conversation? This is FearlessATV, Rhonda Silence in NE MN again and I'd love to take you for a ride. With your roaring machine, spewing exhaust, etc. comments it is obvious you have not been on a modern ATV. Before you attack ATVers, why don't you come for a ride with us sometime. You might be pleasantly surprised.
No, many folks don't need ATVs to get around - I'm very, very, lucky, I can hike, paddle, snowshoe, etc. I just happen to enjoy riding forest roads and trails on my ATV too.
As a woman it is very empowering to ride - when we get through a rock strewn trail that challenges my upper arm strength and motor skills, I feel strong and healthy and proud to have done it.
There are many, many, reasons why people like to ride ATVs and a lot of articulate folks that would be willing to talk to you, on-line or on the trail. But only if you really want to listen - my ATV is quiet enough to have a conversation, even when it's running!
Happy trails to ALL.

RuthieJ said...

Very interesting post and comments Deb.
I have never taken the ATV anywhere on marked trail rides....my personal choice is to enjoy the beauty and sounds of nature on foot. I still see all the things the ATV riders see, without traveling as many miles.
When I used to ride snowmobile, I saw some amazing things because of the frozen trails going into areas you could never get to any other time of the year, but looking back on those times, I'm sure today I would get just as much enjoyment of those trails via snowshoe or XC skis.
Maybe it's because I'm older now? Or is it because I don't have anywhere to go in a hurry anymore and just crave the solitude and silence of nature under my own power and not on a machine?

Deb said...

Rhonda- if you remember, I did ask for comments on the subject I posted- ATV nature writing, and I did provide a way for you to provide examples, my email address on the sidebar. I do and will take seriously all comments; Dan justs gets a little more extreme than I do, but maybe you want to enter into a conversation with him without dragging me into it?

I don't understand your defensiveness; it's not like I'm calling for a ban to your recreation at all. I'm just trying to understand where you come from, and I admit I have some difficulty doing that, just as you probably have some difficulty understanding where I'm coming from. But I don't search for everyone on the Internet with a different opinion than mine and then come invade their blog as your listserv has done. Have you read any more of my blog? Do you know me before you attack me? And would you be so bold as to forward the original message to me?

No thanks on the ride. I have much more empowering things to do here at home. But I do want to listen, and I'm more than willing to talk with those articulate folks!

Anyway, this post was not meant to open up a debate on the merits or lack thereof of ATV riding. I was just looking for some reflective writing from ATV riders. If you have something to contribute in that regard, I welcome it, otherwise this is not a forum for debate. I will delete any further comments that try to push this into something that strays from the question of the original post. Thank you.

Deb said...

RuthieJ- I grew up riding snowmobiles on the lake my grandparents lived on. I enjoyed the speed, the thrill, but at the same time I also cross country skied on those lakes. The difference in the experience was vast, and I remember the silence of the skiing more than I remember the speed of the snowmobile.

I am starting to see this as a question of quantity; how many miles do you have to ride to see nature, vs. sitting still or walking and becoming more intimately acquainted with the place? Walking is, after all, the pace of nature. More posts to follow.

Dan Trabue said...

Why did you ask for comments if you are just going to mock the people who are seriously trying to have a conversation?

I thought Deb was very respectful and considerate in what she was doing. That is why I told her to feel free to delete my more mocking commentary - she seemed interested in honest dialog.

In my defense, it was all in good fun, but I understand it may have sounded mocking (since it was, in fact, mocking - I was just expressing my point of view in that way).

But I did go on to ask in a serious vein if you all could understand where those of us not inclined towards ATV were coming from.

Dan Trabue said...

From my point of view, I have this prejudice against motorized vehicles to begin with. I'm certainly not wanting to ban them, but I would not mind in the least if our gas prices increase to the point where people are inclined away from their over-use.

The sound of engines racing and cars zooming along roads (or worse, for me, trails) is like fingernails on a chalkboard: The sound, the volume, the tremor of it all hurts my soul.

I walk through woods and paddle streams because I want to hear the sounds of each bird, the cackle of a crow, the hoot of an owl, the moan of a loon. I want to hear the wind brush over each leaf and the roll of fresh water past rocks.

I want to smell the crisp pine aroma and cross fields of honeysuckle and wild onion scents.

When I go to the wild, I go specifically to get away from the roars and hums and bumps and smells of cars and all they represent. And so, for me, to be out there in all that great wonder, only to have it interrupted by motorized cacophony, it is a wounding of my spirit and a bitter sad reminder of something that isn't Creation or Wildness.

And this is why I ask if you can understand where I'm coming from.

Dan Trabue said...

Could I offer one more opinion on this comment?

The more laws we pass to take away our free rights the more it encourages other laws in the future to continue taking away others rights.

If I'm getting off topic, please delete freely and quickly. Put me out of my misery...

No one wants unnecessary laws that impinge on human liberty. But we are not islands, we ARE a community and have to come to some grounds to live together. This seems to me to be a matter of natural law and politeness. That whole "your right to swing your fist ends shortly before my nose" thing.

We should certainly have the liberty to listen to music if we wish to. BUT, we also should be able to expect our neighbor not to play music so loud that we can hear it next door.

We should have the liberty to create toxic waste, I guess. BUT we should not have the liberty to put it anywhere other than maybe our living room (I'm not so sure about that one, actually).

We have the liberty to smoke if we are so inclined. BUT personal responsibility and politeness would dictate that I don't smoke around others who don't wish to be smoked upon (my mother goes into coughing spells sometimes if the cigarette smoke or perfume is too thick).

The thing is, I can enjoy a hike without impinging on someone else's desire NOT to hike or to ride a mountain bike or drive an ATV. BUT, an ATV rider can't really cut through the woods without impinging on my desire for a peaceful natural walk.

And so, no, we don't want to create unnecessary laws and rules but YES, we do appreciate rules that protect us from others' actions that interfere with our rights and desires. It's a balancing act and one that would dictate some politeness and responsibility on all sides, seems to me.

Deb said...

Dan- it appears from my site meter that the dust is settling on this post (get it-dust-kicked up by a passing herd of ATV's) so I'll keep your comments up.

Motorized recreation does bring up a very delicate balancing act when it comes to rules. The main problem as I see it is that motorized and non motorized recreation cannot coexist in the same area because of the noise factor, and in the case of grouse hunting, the unfair advantage of those using an ATV to cover more ground. My husband is an avid grouse hunter and he hears the same thing from just about every other hunter- how they are walking along with the dog, looking and listening, when a hunter on an ATV passes them on the trail. Forget about seeing any grouse up ahead! (I must clarify- ATV's are not allowed on state wildlife management areas, but there are plenty of places to hunt where they are allowed)

One might argue that hikers have many miles of trails in the state parks that are off limits to ATV's. True. But do I not also have a right to a quiet hike in the Nemadji State Forest, where nearly every square mile is crisscrossed with trails that are open to motorized use? Public land is just that- public. I don't have the answer to how the rights of motorized and non motorized users can be honored on land that is open to all.