Don’t shoot the messenger, please
It is generally understood that in journalism you do not offer commentary on a news story that you reported, but I am making an exception because I believe it is important.
In the process of reporting and writing the story on conflicting recreational uses in the Hubbard Mesa open area, I left out one account: mine.
Two weeks ago, I went out to the open area to try and find some people target shooting. At the time, I had already interviewed several people identifying as members of the mountain biking community and a spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management.
While several of those people interviewed said they too had gone target shooting in the open area, it was obvious the story needed some perspectives outside the list of suggested sources. So despite the fact that approaching armed strangers with a notepad in hand seemed like an incredibly stupid idea — it still does — I got in my car and drove out to the open area.
For three hours I cautiously walked toward the sound of gunfire — another incredibly intelligent idea — and luckily met several gentlemen who were out with their families. They were very kind, and it was obvious that they were knowledgeable and responsible.
During that time, it was impossible not to notice the expansive trail system running through the area (for the sake of full disclosure, I was with, at times, a longtime local who pointed out many of the trails).
Some of you might recall my rant that resulted from my first trip to a Colorado State Park on a busy Saturday afternoon. Other than the disgusting amount of trash found off the main roads, this place, the open area, was precisely what I was looking for, and I decided to return this past Saturday for a hike.
Staying on County Road 244 — which serves as the open area’s western boundary — after the fork in the road once in BLM land, I parked my car in a dirt lot off to the side and traveled west. It was BLM land outside of the open area, but it did not matter. This was for fun, not for work.
The particular trail I chose occasionally dumped into larger tracks meant for ATVs or larger off-road vehicles, but I did not come across another person and the amount of scattered trash decreased the farther I traveled. Eventually I opted to go off the trail and climb up an outcrop for a better view. Conveniently, there was another trail waiting for me at the top. It was another 20 minutes or so later when I heard the sound.
It was crisp, as if a fighter jet had shot through the air right past me, spooking a bird in a nearby bush. Confused, I started looking around for an aircraft or animal or anything. I have no idea how long I stood there before it clicked, and I ran back to my car.
I have no way of confirming that the sound I heard that day was in fact a bullet flying through the air. There was no booming crack, and I did not see a single person before bolting back to my car.
Some might question whether the experience even happened. Again, I have no proof.
What I do know with certainty is the experience struck a level of fear in me that I have not felt in some time. I also know that I will not be returning to that area for quite a while — if ever — because regardless of whether or not my life was actually at risk, I don’t enjoy spending my free time crippled by fear.
Ryan Hoffman is editor of The Citizen Telegram. He can be reached at 970-685-2103 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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