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585 Just Missing
the Group Hike

Deep Well Trailhead, without the crowds

Deep Well Trailhead from the trail, without the Group

Hiking in a large group is difficult. The size of the party complicates the hike. The leaders have to focus on keeping the group together, moving at a speed adjusted for all members, and those pesky Leave No Trace principles.

Many years ago on a trip to the Canadian Rockies our small rag-tag group was hiking out when we met an extremely large group of climbers from Japan on the trail. At that time the Japanese currency was very strong and the Canadian dollar was very weak, making Canada a very affordable vacation spot. One of the alpine clubs in Japan took advantage of the cheap travel expenses and chartered a plane for the club. Their gear was airlifted into the area by helicopter and they approached us comfortably dressed, as if they were on a walk in a city park.

The cordial group leader stopped and chatted with us for a brief time. The large group bunched up behind him. The leader asked us typical questions concerning snow conditions, camp locations, etc. We curiously asked about the group and then both groups proceeded on their ways.

Soon we were passing and meeting each member of the club. The group size had to be over one hundred members. It was huge. We began acknowledging members with just a head nod, but the hikers deserved more than a gesture and we began returning their greetings. Soon it was a hello-fest as each member of the alpine club greeted each one of us and we greeted each member. The greetings became so comical to us that we stepped to the side of the trail and waited for the procession to pass. They were a great group and really lifted our spirits. It was the largest hiking party I had ever seen.

Last Saturday, we went for a walk in Percy Warner Park. Starting at the Boulevard entrance of the Park we hiked the White Trail to Deep Well, another trailhead. From a short connector trail that links the White Trail with another trail (Red Trail) we could see signs that an event was going to happen at the trailhead. There were Park patrol cars and cones in place at a junction to the parking area, as if they were expecting a crowd. We decided it was probably going to be a race and continued on our hike of the Red Trail.

The Red Trail loops and as we were returning to Deep Well, we saw cars parked along the road far away from the trailhead parking. What in the world was going on?

As we neared the trailhead, cars were parked everywhere along the access road. From a distance we could see a mob of hikers gathering near the trailhead kiosk.

I remembered an email I had received about a geology hike scheduled for that day; but thought it was a morning hike. Regardless of what the large group was doing, we picked up our pace. We did not want to meet the large group on the trail, because we would never get by them. It was probably going to be a great hike, but it was also going to be very difficult to manage and keep the trail open for non-group hikers and runners.

For other hikers trying to meet or pass the group, good luck. The group was probably not going to be as accommodating as the alpine club we met in Canada, but here are a couple of tips ...

Join the group, turn around, or find another trail - In Rocky Mountain National Park when we meet large groups of horse riders, we generally just find another trail. The horses are going too slow and are impossible to pass - similar to an extremely large group of hikers. For some hiking groups it might be easiest just to join in the fun..

Use a diversion - as you approach the mob of hikers, begin taking quick glances behind as you walk with a hurried step. Once you are closer to the group, frantically yell 'skunk'. Yelling bear or snake might also work, but you don't want to scare them to death, you just want to get them moving. Ha!

It is great to see folks out hiking and using the Parks even if they are in a huge group. Even with large groups remember to follow the Leave No Trace principles and lessen your impact on the environment. If you are meeting a large group on the trail, practice your greetings!

Happy group trails


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