Sunday, January 27, 2008

Segway use in non-urban areas?

A post on National Parks Traveler discussed the possible use of Segway personal transporters in National Parks. I've never been to the parks in question (Sequoia and Yosemite) and don't know enough about them to know if Segways could be integrated to reduce traffic or have other benefits. I started thinking about use of Segways in the Yellowstone, the park I'm most familiar with and probably more similar to the CA parks than Mt. Ranier or Olympic. I'm not impressed with the idea, people with mobility problems probably are better off with wheelchairs or scooters. I doubt it would reduce traffic on the roads, just add congestion. On the other hand, the image of a group of Segway riders moving through a bison herd is interesting, although no worse than bicyclists who do ride through the park. I would dislike Segways being able to use the bike trails and boardwalks, the latter are often crowded and don't need vehicles moving faster than a walking pace.

I've only seen a few Segways in use, they aren't common in the Seattle area. I went to the Segway site and noticed they have a couple of models for off pavement use. Initially I thought it would be fun to use one of these, not on real trails of course but exploring out of the way areas using less gas or getting to a trailhead. Also, health problems have limited my ability to hike in the last couple of years. Then I noticed the very limited range of up to 12 miles. This isn't far enough to get me to a trailhead or make a significant difference in gas usage most of the time. I wonder who is the intended consumer for these Segways? Yes, I would rather share trails with Segways rather than extremely loud trail motorcycles or ATVs but I can't see a Segway being particularly useful for off pavement.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Positive hiking encounters

For some reason, I find it easier to complain about unpleasant or annoying hikers and have blogged about such a few times and will do so again. This time I want to comment on helpful and enjoyable encounters with other hikers.

A few years ago I hiked to a local lookout. On my way down, about 2 miles and 1000 feet below, I discovered my binoculars were missing, probably left at the lookout. After searching my gear, I tried to decide whether I should go back for them and concluded I did not have the energy that day. About that time, a pair of hikers came by and asked what was wrong (I probably looked rather unhappy). I told them I had lost my binoculars and told them they could have the binoculars if they found them. They offered to look and to send them to me so I gave them a business card. A couple of weeks later the binoculars arrived in the mail from these wonderful people. Of course I sent them a thank you note and cash to pay for the shipping.

Other times hikers have offered to share food or water with me. In one case, another hiker thought I had a cold (I have bad pollen allergies) and tried to give me orange juice to help with my cold. After a clumsy fall, medically trained hikers have come over to make sure I didn't need help and was okay. Other hikers have offered to accompany me if I seemed lost or perhaps just looked uncertain. I haven't needed help but I am certain if I did most of the people I meet hiking would go out of their way to assist me.

That chance met strangers are so helpful is not unique to hiking but is not all that common in my experience either. I grew up in a small town and rural areas and there and in my youth it was common to help others even if you did not know them. In cities and in more recent times helping strangers seems much less common and often for good reasons. I'm quite aware of violence against people even on hiking trails and theft. I am happy that most backcountry users are trusting and trustworthy.