To: All responsible parties, associations, agencies
Regarding: Informational bulletin – equestrian vs trail runner incident 8/21/15
On August 22, 2015 Lake Tahoe NV State Park received a disturbing report of an incident concerning dangerous, confrontational behavior on the Tahoe Rim Trail roughly 2 miles north of Spooner Summit. The witness statement is attached – please give this a thorough reading to have reference points for the below comments.
The Park has not located the suspect in this incident and it is unknown at this time if the victim would wish to press charges should that person be found. For now, the Park feels that distributing this information is most important to further education on responsible, legal and common sense good behavior in the Spooner Backcountry and other nearby backcountry areas.
From a legal standpoint, after consultation with local LE authorities, what happened on the day in question was a misdemeanor assault. The threat to ‘get a gun’ to resolve a verbal dispute is an extremely dangerous, confrontational escalation that could have easily led to a homicide – over a right of way misunderstanding! The Park condemns this threatening behavior in the strongest possible terms and is appalled by the lack of common sense and basic understanding of trail etiquette by the equestrian suspect. This ‘trail rage’ incident is disturbingly similar to ‘road rage’ incidents. The trail runner wisely ran away in this incident, but what might have happened if he also had been armed? This incident could have wound up being a justifiable homicide with the runner shooting the equestrian as he was attempting to ‘get his gun’!
This behavior is not reflective of the good and responsible individuals and organizations representing the equestrian community that I have come to know in the over 20 + years I have been with Parks at Spooner Lake. My intent, along with all Park staff, is to urge continuing education in proper trail etiquette, manners and tolerance to other trail users. Trail etiquette and manners postings are recommendations, not laws or orders, but informal rules to assist recreational users in safely and courteously passing each other on trails.
Passing head to head:
EQ’s have the right of way, followed by hikers and then by bicyclists. Recreationists should be
looking ahead in narrow, brushy or steep sided areas to find a safe place to yield to whatever party has the right of way.
Passing when overtaking:
The recreationist that is moving at a faster rate has the right of way. The recreationist moving
more slowly should find a safe spot to move aside and let the other party pass. This is a common sense and pretty much universal rule. One wonders if the roles were reversed how the equestrian would have reacted (the golden rule).
This is probably the most important recommendation(s). Users should make eye contact when
possible and / or politely engage the other party verbally to request safe passage – a simple salutation and ‘thank you’ is what most good mannered people typically do as they go by.
In the case of the angry equestrian, he clearly had a misunderstanding of the overtaking rule and brought some other anger issues into the backcountry with him that fueled his bad attitude. I had conversation with the equestrian in question before the incident, along with 2 other witnesses and he was clearly an unhappy individual that day and at the least, had a misguided sense of entitlement.
Finally, this is not the first incident of this sort and according to local LE authority, other complaints and incidents involving equestrians are on the rise. The hope here, with the above and attached information, is to put some light on teaching tolerance, doubling down on trail etiquette education and visitor patience and understanding with fellow recreationists.
Thanks for your attention to this information.
Park Supervisor I
Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, Cave Rock
Spooner Lake-Backcountry Operations
2005 Hwy 28, PO Box 6116
Incline Village, NV, 89450 (775) 831-0494 x224
(775) 831-2514 fax (775) 220-3448 cell firstname.lastname@example.org
Witness / Victim statement – 8//22/15
Thanks for taking the time to follow up with me today about the incident on the TRT. As requested below is a written account of what occurred. Please let me know if you require further info.
The below incident occurred at about noon on August 21, 2015. I was running on the TRT, parked on Spooner summit on highway 50, headed north on the trail toward Snow Valley Peak.
I was running by myself, had a t-shirt and a pair of shorts on, no backpack, no poles, etc. I had a water bottle, but stashed it alongside the trail about two miles in, to retrieve on the way back so as to not carry it the whole. I state this because I had no phone, etc. with me. I ran out 4.65 miles, which was my one hour designated halfway time and just below the peak I turned around
to head back toward highway 50. On the way up the trail, (before I turned around at my half way point) I saw three men on horseback who were also leading a fourth horse that appeared to be loaded with gear. I stepped off the trail to the right and allowed them to pass by. The last man, wearing some kind of camouflage jacket, said something all the lines of ‘good on you for running up here’. After some thought, I believe this was between where I saw you doing trail work at the trail to camp and highway 50. At this point, there was no incident and I gave the horses no further thought. Around in that area, I also encountered what appeared to be an ultra runner man and woman, who were spaced a few hundred yards apart, as they headed down to highway 50/Spooner summit. There was also a single young male hiker headed the same direction. I’m not sure if any of these individuals had interactions with the horse group.
After I reached my turnaround point at 4.65 miles, I headed back toward Spooner summit, again passing the runners, hiker, as well as you and the other ranger working at the intersection of the camp trail. Further down, approximately 2-2.5 miles north of highway 50, I overtook the three men on the four horses. I announced my approach from behind so as to not startle the horses or riders, and the last two riders stopped on the trail to allow me to walk passed them. The trail was narrow single track at this point, going moderately down a side-slope grade. The front rider,
who was leading the pack horse, did not stop his horse or step off the trail, despite his co-riders announcing my presence to him several times. After a few hundred yards of following him, without him stopping, I said something along the lines of ‘if you stop for a second, I can squeeze by’. At that point, with me still behind him, he started yelling something about equestrians having the right of way. Realizing he was not going to stop or move off-trail, I departed the trail to the left of him, which was down-slope and went approximately 10 feet off the trail, re-joining the track maybe 15-20 feet in front of him. He was still yelling about horses having the right away and a lot of expletives , so I stopped and incredulously said something along the lines of ‘I announced my presence and you didn’t allow me to pass, what do you want me to do, follow you all the way back?’. This was met with him jumping down from his horse, vibrating with anger and coming at me. I’m sure his intention was to punch me or attack me in some way. I was down the trail from him by at least 10-15 feet and quickly backed away as he came and he yelled ‘don’t you run away from me’. I yelled ‘f- you’ and turned to head down the trail. He quickly doubled back to his horse, saying ‘I’m gonna get my gun’ and began fumbling in his side bag. I did not stay to see if he pulled anything out and ran down the trail as fast as I could all the way back to highway 50, with him still shouting ‘don’t you run away from me’. I yelled over my shoulder that I was going to report him to the rangers I saw down the trail, hoping that would stop whatever action he was considering. (there were no rangers that I had seen other than you) I kept looking over my shoulder in case he was following and was going to run off into the woods to get away from him. Needless to say, I did not stop to retrieve my water bottle. I will have to get it (it’s a kleen canteen) on my next run up there. I had my key ready as I ran down the trail and got out of the parking area as quickly as possible in the case that he was close behind.
As I said on the phone, the other two riders appeared to be fine and I think they may have been saying something to try and calm him down. I’m not really sure as the whole exchange with the lead rider was likely less than a minute. Either way, I didn’t want to stay around and see if I was going to get beat up by one or three guys (or shot).
As for the description, it is unfortunately difficult to say because he was wearing a hat and sunglasses. What I can tell you is that he is a white male, under six feet tall (but close, 5’11” maybe), stocky build, maybe 190-210 pounds. He likely was between 30-40 years old, was wearing cowboy boots, blue jeans, with a wide leather belt & belt buckle, white or cream button- up long sleeve shirt that was tucked into the jeans. Additionally he was wearing a white cowboy hat with black wraparound sunglasses. I can’t positively recall if he had any facial hair.