Wanting to hike Monolith Garden Trail while trying to avoid an accidental bullfight
I heard about the Monolith Garden Trail last weekend and looked it up the very next morning. An internet outdoors platform, Alltrails.com, describes it as a 6.4 mile lightly trafficked loop trail that features beautiful wild flowers. But a glance at the hikers’ reviews made me laugh. There was a bunch of people confused by the presence of cows on the trail.
“Pretty good and fun hike,” wrote a recent visitor. “Little scary because we ran into some bulls.”
“The trail was blocked in a few places by cows, but I was able to work my way around them,” wrote another user.
Yet another, an experienced hiker, described his experience on his blog:
“Oh, and there is cattle to contend with. They are slightly skittish, which just makes me worry they'll do something unexpected.”
Snorting at people’s lack of appreciation of free-grazing bovine, I drove to Metwell Drive, just off of West Beale Street/Highway 93 after the intersection with Interstate 40 as you leave Kingman, and started to hike.
The trail is amazing. The wildflowers are gorgeous, and the reviews did not exaggerate. A herd of bulls (about 10 of them) seem to be stationed permanently there, as early as 8 a.m. and as late as 7 p.m. And they do seem troubled by people’s presence, especially if one encounters the whole herd in the middle of the path in a narrow canyon. They act nervous, and at occasions, start to growl or jump to a wild run.
It seems that the majority of cattle in our area are free range, and many ranchers lease public lands from the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, as an inexpensive method of having their cattle feed on natural vegetation instead of having to purchase expensive hay for them. There are 81 cattle grazing permits on about 2.7 million acres of public lands the Kingman Field Office of BLM manages in Mohave County.
After returning home, I’ve checked recommendations for encounters with bulls or, for that matter, recommendations on how to avoid a close encounter with one altogether.
The matter seem hopeless.
“If you see a bull in a pasture or field with cows, avoid going in the field at all costs,” advises WikiHow. “This is just plain common sense, even if it means having to walk the long way around to get to your destination.”
Bulls “pawing the dirt,” growling, tossing their heads and “glaring” are considered being dangerous – the cattle of the Monolith Garden Trail did all of that. Check, check, check, and check.
At the same time, the trail is too beautiful to not attempt to share it with the bulls. But maybe a slight change in the name would be appropriate to give hikers a heads up on what they are signing up to. “The Mooonolith Garden Trail” would be a reasonable compromise.