It’s getting heavy out there. In three disparate, unrelated incidents, officials are warning of threats to mountain bikers, hikers, and campers in the Northeast, Rockies, and Southwest.
In Arizona’s Pinal County, the sheriff’s department has cautioned campers and hikers that bands of sicarios, Mexican drug assassins, are likely to be in southwestern parts of the county, looking to kill what are called rip crews, which steal drugs and money from gangs as they transport them across the Mexican-U.S. border.
“If you’re going to travel there, be armed,” said Sheriff Paul Babeau. “We are taking this threat seriously and believe that the public and my deputies deserve to know that there is an elevated risk of encountering gun violence in certain areas of Pinal County.
“I am concerned that when these cartel hitmen have armed confrontations with the rip crews in the deserts of Pinal County, innocent Americans and my deputies are going to be injured or killed. People who think that this is somehow far removed, that it’s happening in Mexico and that we’re all safe here, that’s not the case. This violence is occurring right here in our county.”
Well, that’s Arizona. Elsewhere, potential violence is being directed against mountain bikers, trail runners, and hikers.
In Massachusetts, cable snare wires were “maliciously hung” across bike trails in Franklin State Forest, Wrentham State Forest, and Freetown State Forest. The state Department of Conservation and Recreation has posted warnings in all three parks, as well as in nearby Gilbert Hills State Forest.
In Colorado south of Denver, riders discovered three-inch nails buried in the dirt on Little Scraggy Trail in the Buffalo Creek Recreation Area. Tim Fishback and Nick Kostecki were riding the newly open trail when Kostecki suffered two flat tires on a smooth section of singletrack. When Fishback rode back to help him, he, too flatted.
They investigated about a mile of trail and found three two-pound bricks with nails embedded in them buried in the soil.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Fishback told the Denver Post. “Someone manufactured these things. It took some effort to dig those holes and put those in there and they were spaced out a good bit. Somebody was trying to do some real harm and they were targeting bikers.”
Buffalo Creek is a symbol of successful partnership between the Forest Service and the mountain biking community. Working together over two decades, they restored a burned section of Pike National Forest and built the nine-mile Little Scraggy Loop with more than 1,000 hours of volunteer time.
“That’s the craziest thing,” Fishback said. “Mountain bikers built that trail. I rarely see anyone but mountain bikers on that trail.”
Photos by Tim Fishback, top, and Ben Freeman
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