Shortly after I moved to the cabin, a former owner told me about a trail that followed the creek and led to a waterfall and then continued down the valley. Because the trail passed through private property, I avoided it in the summer, not wanting to disturb anyone’s privacy, even though no cabins were visible from the trail. It’s not really a trail but a faint outline in the grasses, a narrow passage through rocks and trees.
But once fall came and most of the summer residents left, I discovered a wonderful hike, different than the surrounding landscape of dry hills covered with pines. Down along the creek, it’s more lush, with stands of aspens and more grasses. With everything squeezed into the bottom of the valley, I felt closer to nature, brushing the trunk of the aspens, climbing over the rocks, and skirting the edge of the stream. It felt like a hidden place, not visible to the rest of the world from above.
I felt a bit uneasy about hiking through someone else’s property, but other people had mentioned this place, so I got the sense that others walked back here, that perhaps it was something commonly accepted. The cabins around here are surrounded by Forest Service property, so who’s to say where government property ends and private property begins?
Yet, when I attempted to do the hike a few weeks ago, I was met by several no-trespassing signs and branches laid across the beginning of the trail. There was no uncertainty that the owner did not want anyone on his property and that I was definitely unwelcome.
Reluctantly, I turned around, not willing to challenge someone’s strong territorial claims. Yet I wonder where the lines are drawn here. Many of the roads I walk on in Meeker Park are private roads that lead to cabins, with “no trespassing” signs guarding the entrance from the main road. I understand that local residents don’t want people who don’t live there driving around, kicking up dust, and making noise. But as a walker, I’m not bothering anyone. Compared to the jeeps and ATVs, what harm am I doing?
I can understand the impulse behind “I found my piece of paradise, now leave me alone.” After all, one of the reasons I bought my cabin was to escape from the “civilized” world with too many people and too much noise. But is there room for those of us who love and respect this valley to share the space?