Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An Ode to the Mudbogger ... a Righteous Rant

Buried to its axles in greasy brown water, I watched with no small amount of horror as the driver of the tricked-out Jeep stood on the gas and slowly, in a rooster tail of earth and water, peeled the vehicle out of the creekbed and up onto the packed, wet earth of higher ground.

There were lots of hoots and hollers at the accomplishment. A barrage of high-fives followed the successful extraction from the gaping maw of the southern creekbed. And smiles. Big, muddy smiles.

Now, granted, I wasn't there to be sucked into this contagium of machismo, so I can't speak to the actual level of excitement on the ground. I was watching it from the corner of a hotel-room bed in Nevada on what I assumed was basic cable. One of the many start-up outdoor television networks had devoted a 30-minute timeslot to these heroics, and I found myself mesmerized at the general idea that this behavior was not only acceptable in some circles, but worthy of airing on TV.

Call me a snob, but I was horrified.

Like most dedicated fly fishers, I like to look at water, no matter where I am. I like to guess what lies beneath. I slow down when I cross bridges over rivers, and more than once I've been snapped back to reality by a blaring horn thanks to my magnetic gaze into a river canyon that's drawn my eyes away from a hairpin-laden mountain road.

So, naturally, my first thought at seeing these folks splash through the creekbottom was, "I wonder what used to swim there?" followed quickly by "I wonder who used to fish there?"

It's all past tense in those mud bogs, especially in the wet and muggy South. No doubt the little creek once hosted pan-sized bream and probably a few catfish... maybe a bass or two. Now, after a regular dose of lifted Jeeps and the occasional 4,000 rpm slipfest, I'm guessing the only critters living in that water are pretty microscopic and quite a bit paranoid.

I quickly became part of the problem--I didn't turn the channel. Instead, mouth agape, I watched as the show host, who unabashedly admitted to never driving a stick before (city boy), climbed behind the wheel of one of the Jeeps and promptly got it stuck in another creekbottom (why trash the same creek twice, right?).

His passenger reached down and pushed a yellow button, locking the vehicle's front axle, and another painfully slow extraction followed. And, judging by the reaction of the lookers-on, you'd think these two fellows had just topped a Colorado "fourteener" or perhaps wrestled an alligator into submission. At the very least, you'd think they'd just finished an Ironman.

Nope. Yellow button. God bless American mechanical engineering.

Granted, I might be pretty set in my ways--I like stalking trout in those little backcountry creeks, away from the road and the noise and smell of exhaust. I'm the first to claim that hopping on (or into) a vehicle in order to "get away from it all" is counterintuitive. But I understand the attraction, and like to think that, if resources are used appropriately, there's room for everyone to enjoy their passion.

But these soupy little creeks these guys were driving through now have only one use.

Again, not actually being there probably impairs my judgment--I have no idea if the land these juiced-up four-by-fours were slicing in two is public, or somebody's private mud-bogging playground (imagine those property values). But I think, as a sportsman, I can speak with some level of authority to the grade of impact these folks were delivering to the watershed. In short, "mudbogging" to this degree seems like a pretty selfish endeavor.

Later in the show (just a few minutes later--I pulled myself away to make it to a meeting on time), I watched as a line of modified Jeeps and Samarais cruised along a muddy road toward yet another creek. This particular creek was named "Bill's Crack," or something similar--an appropriate name for the waterway, as it truly has gone to shit thanks to the barrage of booger-eating morons and their vehicles equipped with studded tires, roll cages and yellow buttons.

Call me an elitist. Call me intolerant. But don't give the camera a grin with mud on your teeth and try to justify this destruction with an "aw, shucks," shrug of the shoulders. Sure, you're having fun. I get it. You've clearly marked your territory.

And, so long as you continue to do so, it becomes equally important for me and others like me to mark the places we treasure, if for no other reason than to protect them from people like you. Rant and rave all you want about the restrictions wilderness designations put on motorized recreation in the backcountry--we need only turn on the tube and show you what the least-responsible members of the motorized recreation community do to the places they find "irreplacable."

End of rant. Enjoy your time "outdoors." And wear a seatbelt, Cooter. Helmets are optional.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Chris, I have to say, I couldn't agree with you more. These days folks seem more interested in tearing up the landscape with four by fours and ATV's than actually enjoying what the outdoors has to offer. I wonder if any of them actually do wonder what has become of the fish in the brooks and streams they tear up. I dunno who to blame, the drivers of these vehicles, the manufacturers, or the television shows that embrace them...