With hunters and mountain bikers sharing the same woods at certain times of the year, thoughts have turned to a rather unlikely hero — Rodney Martinez. Martinez is a hunting guide in Espanola, N.M.
But three years ago near the beginning of hunting season in the Santa Fe National Forest, Martinez was out with some family members scouting the area for elk.
Around the same time, two mountain bikers from New Hampshire were having some trouble trying to fix a flat on the dirt roads of the national forest. Martinez and clan came upon the couple. They stopped and offered some assistance. It turns out the bicycle pump the couple had was not working.
The hunters didn’t happen to have a spare bicycle pump in the vehicle. However, Martinez did have a portable compressor at home. After suggesting to the couple they camp nearby and he would bring the compressor in the morning, the scouts were off.
The couple — Jan Duprey and I — spent a stormy night in a tent wondering if the compressor would come.
Hunters Are Good Samaritans
Not only did it come the next morning, but so did fresh water. The only thing missing were bagels and coffee, but it wasn’t the time to complain.
Fixing a flat led to a chance encounter with elk hunters in the forests of New Mexico. Jan Duprey photo.
So, the moral of the story is that not every hunter is a beer-guzzling, shoot-at-everything-that-moves, “Soldier of Fortune” reading fool. On the flipside, not every mountain biker is a margarita-swilling, ride-wherever-I-damn-well-please, comic book reading fool.
Mountain bikers and hunters must be aware of each others’ activities in the woods. It’s only a matter of time before the two cross paths. Though the sight of seeing armed people in the woods might strike fear into your cycling heart, they’re not out to get you. They are, for the most part, out to get a deer or moose — so, don’t dress like one. Be safe and wear hunter orange to be seen.
The diminutive Jan and I were on an extended mountain bike trip. The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, mapped out by the Adventure Cycling Association in Missoula, Mont., stretches 2,465 miles along the Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. The route follows a combination of fire access roads, 4-wheel-drive trails, occasional paved sections and singletrack. It crosses the Continental Divide about 29 times and traces the ridge of the Rocky Mountains through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. We were riding it together.
Sharing the dirt roads with hunters never entered our minds during the planning stages of the 11-week trip. It wasn’t until we hit southern Colorado and saw a couple of guys with binoculars in a pick-up truck scanning the landscape that we learned it was game season. They were searching for antelope, their bows and quivers in the rig.
Luckily we had wrapped our sleeping bags in orange plastic bags for the trip which we put on top of our bike trailers. We felt visible. That must have been why the camouflage-wearing drivers would slow down as they neared us, open their window and always ask us, “Seen any elk?” Maybe yes. Maybe no.
The Kindness Of Bowhunters
Though sometimes we may have skirted the truth about what we had seen, we were grateful for the kindness of bowhunters when winter seemed to arrive a bit too early.
One day the dirt roads and pine groves of the national forest were assaulted with nasty hail and we had nowhere to go to seek shelter, except by unburdening ourselves to the kindness of strangers in a nearby trailer. Looking like two drowning rats, we approached the camper. I knocked on a door and asked of the unseen if we could get out of the rain by standing under the door’s awning.
“Yeah,” said a voice.
In moments, an arm protruded through the door holding a few towels. A voice told us to dry off and come in where one shivering biker was immediately wrapped in blankets as one of the camper residents cooed, “You poor little thing.”
Plied with coffee and muffins, we were befriended by these bowhunters. The storm abated. We were invited to stay.
For dinner we consumed last year’s harvest: elk burgers with green chilies.
And everyone washed it down with beer and margaritas.