I am fortunate to have been able to purchase an ATV and although I have to really limit my riding due to the pain that causes and the subsequent medications I must take after a ride, I am still able to ride enough to really enjoy the days afield. There are a lot of 85 year old ATV riders out there so I guess no matter your physical abilities, riding can bring the back country to your doorstep literally.
An entire generation has been able to not only continue their forays into the forests but can access areas long off limits except to the very fit and active people. Now older people and disabled and younger can see things that they otherwise may not have seen. One example of this is Wheeler Geologic Area.
This is a natural rock formation back in the wilderness about 14 miles from the auto trailhead. While a jeep can still access this location, its about as rough as you can get and still make it in and out. ATV's are built to withstand the abuses of this type of trail and with their low pressure tires, can go over rocks and down through creeks where a jeep has to just crawl thru. And there is less chance of a breakdown with an ATV as they seem to float over the rocks and trees often found across the trails.
A jeep is still a great option for those without an ATV and those are easily rented at the towns around trailheads. Be sure and buy the insurance as offered as it covers any lost days the owner might experience if you break something on the jeep and its out of commission for awhile.
While I do not agree with using an ATV for hunting and the flood of them into this area during those seasons drives the game away from the roads and scares them off, I do see what the use of them has done for those of us who may not be able to hike distances into the forests.
But back to the ATV riding. It can be a very dusty environment and proper gear is suggested if you plan on being out for any extended period. My Yorkie, Cooper, loves to ride on the seat in front of me when we ride and his eyes are also exposed to the dirt and dust the same as mine. So last year, Paula got him some doggie goggles. While this is not necessary it sure is a conversation starter when you meet other ppl riding in the mountains. Of course, Cooper is very willing to go wherever I go and will do about anything to get to do so. So he wears the goggles and puts up with it when conditions merit. I always have on sunglasses and often a neck scarf to cover my mouth. A good quality rain suit and waterproof boots are also recommended as the temperatures can be quite cool and a good dousing far from the trailhead can be dangerous with the risk of hypothermia. Remember, you are not out in your backyard or city park but in a very unforgiving environment that can be dangerous if not respected.
One way to avoid so much dust is to slow down. I see lots of people running up and down the trails at breakneck speed to get to where they are going only to turn around and rush back to the trailhead to go home. My idea of ATV use is to use it to access some point back in the mountains that I cannot walk to and then to spend the day having a picnic, looking around or fishing. The rest in between rides is essential for my day as I have some disability issues and so I cannot go hard all day without encountering too much pain.
Proper riding techniques are paramount to safe use of an ATV and there are many injuries and deaths in the mountain region due to improper use of the machines. Many of the ATV dealers offer safety courses and those are highly recommended if you plan on using these for pleasure. So many people buy one and immediately jump on them and roar off.
My rule of thumb is to look at the ground going past your feet and ask yourself, "would you mind falling off onto that surface at this speed?" THAT should keep most sane people from over doing it and getting hurt. Remember these are not a toy but a tool to be used safely and with adult supervision for younger riders. Many states prohibit riders younger than a certain age and the fines imposed by the enforcement officers are proof that they are serious about that effort.
Last year my girlfriend Paula and her cousin and her daughter and her husband hiked into Wheeler. Its about an 8 mile hike cross country and they decided in light of the distances and chances of rain along the way to have people come in on ATV's an pick them up for the return trip. Several people were willing to do that for them and it was a great day in the forest. A short hike from the end of the ATV trail will bring you to several overlooks to the rock formations at Wheeler and they were able to get pictures and get back safely before too late in the day. Using an ATV in this manner allowed her and her cousin to get a great hike in and also to get a nice ride out. Two groups of people were able to enjoy doing what they like best or are able to do and combine it into a trip for everyone. Use your imagination and don't limit yourself to only those people who have the same abilities as you.
But whatever your skill level, abilities, or physical challenges, getting into the backcountry has never been easier and the sights there are wonders to behold. Find a good map and chart out a course for your next adventure. Make sure you tell someone where you are going and when you will be back, take plenty of water, some lighters and space blankets and emergency food for a day or two and get outside and enjoy. kk