Harleys in the Mountains

Backpacking in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico a number of years ago, my husband and I pitched our tent next to a mountain lake at about 11,000 feet. At one end was a narrow wooden bridge separating the lake from a waterfall spilling down a cliff.

It was a long, hard hike up from the campground at 6,000 feet where we’d parked our car. Along the narrow hiking trail leading up the mountain were signs, “No motorized vehicles.” Thank god. I am so tired of bikers on their revved up Harleys echoing around mountain canyons.

At sundown on the second day—after enjoying the stillness and fresh mountain air—I hear an ominous sound echoing through the canyon, like a squadron of chain saws. Motorcycles. Surely they aren’t coming up the trail!

They are. The only place they can be headed is our peaceful lake. And the only way they can get across the waterfall is on our rickety bridge. The closer they get, the madder I get. I decide that they will not cross. I sit in the middle of the bridge, my legs hanging over the cliff side.

Soon five bearded men arrive at the water’s edge, waiting for me to get up. I don’t say a word, just sit on the bridge and stare at the sunset. The bikers say, “Lady, move. We’re crossing this bridge.” I am silent. They rev their engines.

After they grumble for a minute, I say, “You are not crossing this bridge.”


I raise my voice. “The first guy who tries is going over the cliff.” I’m so angry, my hands are shaking.

Now the Harleys are getting upset. They’re mumbling about what to do.

“Lady, we don’t want to hurt you, but we’re crossing this bridge.”

“Oh no you’re not. I’ll go over the cliff with you if I have to.”

This is serious, they realize. More revving of motors. More discussion. While the stand-off continues, my husband emerges from the woods. “What’s going on here?”

“These jerks think they’re going to cross the bridge. Don’t tell me they didn’t see the signs on the trail.”

Since my husband knows there’s no point in reasoning with me, he approaches the bikers. Walking over the bridge, he tries to calm them down with some unflattering words about his wife. I am unfazed.

Now these guys have a dilemma. What to do? My husband sounds almost sympathetic. “Look, I’m sorry, but I’ll have to take down your license numbers if you don’t turn around.”

The bikers are now showing a little respect. “But, sir, it was a long way up here. The sun is going down. There’s just a short way to go down the other side.”

My husband answers, “Yeah, but I know her, and she’s not going to move.”

I am clearly unmoved. The bikers turn their vehicles around and head back the way they came.

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