I feel that off-trail travel is legitamate. I think people get angry about it because they are misunderstanding the fundamental idea of off-trail travel. When I say off-trail (OT), I mean it. I usually start from a point at which there is no trail at all. Though occasionally I admit to following a trail and then departing at a suitable point. I think what people get upset about (including myself) is people who cut switchbacks, re-route trails, and are generally destructive to the lanscape. I firmly beleive that if you are following a trail STAY ON IT! don't walk next to it, or try to develop "shortcuts". Those trails run the way they do for a reason. However there are limitless places that deserve to be visited yet have no trails. I don't think I should be forced to avoid those places as a result. I do make sure I walk on solid rock as often as possible, I don't crush vegetation or otherwise harm the wildlife, and if I find a game trail or trail of use, I use it. The biggest problem is that there are people without the experience to walk OT. I think most of the people upset by talk of going OT have those inexperienced hikers in mind. They don't want a bunch of novices thinking its OK to just go barreling through the desert creating new trails wherever they want (and lets face it, the desert is more fragile than most ecosystems and it doesn't take a lot of damage to permamently scar the landscape) With that in mind, I would say if you have the appropriate experience, knowledge and eco-courtesy, coupled with the desire to escape the roving hoards of trail walkers (honestly, I think that's one of the most important reasons I go out. To get away from the crowds) then its perfectly acceptable to walk OT. I do, however, encourage everyone to STAY ON TRAILS when they are available.
Was there a particular instance you had in mind here Ron? That whole post seems pretty pointed...
Also, I would like to encourage you to share those experiences anyway. Its easy to burn someone for making a mistake, but there are people who would benefit from your learning experience. Besides, I'll bet the rest of us realize that that sort of criticism just exposes the ignorance of the criticiser. Some people do have legitimate arguments for staying exclusively on trails, those arguments deserve attention, but its no reason to attack you personally.
BTW, here is a link to a former discussion of the same topic:
http://www.hikearizona.com/dex2/viewtop ... sc&start=0