It's spring...or rather mud season

According to the calendar, it's now officially spring. Whether that means several feet of snow on the ground or crocuses poking through the soil depends on where you live. For many of us, spring is synonymous with mud season. Here are a few mud season reminders:

Muddy trail or access road, like above? Head straight through, not around mud or water.

Certain hiking trails should be avoided during mud season, especially more fragile terrain at higher elevations. Some trails may even be closed to protect them (Vermont, for example, usually closes trails on state land from mid-April until Memorial Day weekend). Even if a trail isn’t closed, consider whether you can hike it responsibly.

If you do encounter a muddy stretch, remember to stay in the middle of the trail and hike single file through the mud, not around it. Trying to keep your feet dry by circumventing muddy puddles just tramples vegetation, causes soil erosion, and spreads the mud—and trail—wider and wider.

If a trail is just too muddy to travel straight through, consider turning back and hiking somewhere else, rather than causing irrevocable damage. Hikes at lower elevations and those with southern exposure are likely to have drier conditions.

Lastly, remember that that melting snowpack can raise stream crossings by several inches in a day. So carefully evaluate the safety of crossing a particular stream both heading out and returning, when water levels can be higher and currents faster. You may want to avoid trails with stream crossings during spring.

Be a safe and responsible hiker, but don't let a little mud or rain keep you inside this spring either. After all, you know what comes after mud season, right? Black fly season.

Comments

f_klock
110 reviewer rep
762 forum posts
March 22, 2010 at 10:22 a.m. (EDT)

...remember to stay in the middle of the trail and hike single file through the mud, not around it. Trying to keep your feet dry by circumventing muddy puddles just tramples vegetation, causes soil erosion, and spreads the mud—and trail—wider and wider.

When I took the Leave No trace trainer's course, more people had problems with with the principal of staying on the trail, in the mud, than they did having to bury or even pack out their own waste! "Do you know how much these shoes cost?!" was the cry from one "Girl Scout "Professional." "Gimme a break, that's exactly the purpose the poor folks in China made them for WalMart FOR!" was my response. She didn't speak for the rest of the 2 day trip. :-)

GaryPalmer
200 reviewer rep
4,153 forum posts
March 22, 2010 at 10:24 a.m. (EDT)

I have seen Crocuses poking thru the soil for a couple weeks here in Flagstaff , AZ. Other flowering plants are beginning to show as their budding leaves beginning to show thru the ground.

It has been in the lower 60s some days. Mornings are still below freezing just before sun-up. Elevation here is about 7500 feet. Most of the snow in town is gone, the highest points of the San Francisco Peaks are still covered with lots of snow.

Water levels in Oak Creek Canyon south of Flagstaff near Sedona are at record highs this Spring. Friends told me last weekend that the normally tranquil creek is way over its banks.

We had about 120 inches of snow this winter, hardest snowfall since 1967.

Alicia
TRAILSPACE STAFF
588 reviewer rep
3,051 forum posts
March 22, 2010 at 10:53 a.m. (EDT)

...remember to stay in the middle of the trail and hike single file through the mud, not around it. Trying to keep your feet dry by circumventing muddy puddles just tramples vegetation, causes soil erosion, and spreads the mud—and trail—wider and wider.

When I took the Leave No trace trainer's course, more people had problems with with the principal of staying on the trail, in the mud, than they did having to bury or even pack out their own waste! "Do you know how much these shoes cost?!" was the cry from one "Girl Scout "Professional." "Gimme a break, that's exactly the purpose the poor folks in China made them for WalMart FOR!" was my response. She didn't speak for the rest of the 2 day trip. :-)

That's funny! Well, a little sad too, but funny.

This is one of my pet peeves, when people refuse to get their boots or shoes muddy and will do anything to avoid it.

gonzan
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
658 reviewer rep
2,148 forum posts
March 22, 2010 at 1:24 p.m. (EDT)

not being willing to walk through mud in hiking boots goes perfectly with those who have four wheel drive off-road vehicles who freak out if they get a scratch on them! If you were wanted to buy them for those features, why would you be loth to use them?

yock
27 reviewer rep
200 forum posts
March 22, 2010 at 1:45 p.m. (EDT)

I've always considered my muddy boots a badge of honor. Who would trust a hiker with clean shoes?

Brad David Orndorff
36 reviewer rep
148 forum posts
July 13, 2010 at 3:36 p.m. (EDT)

If possible I`ll jump over or step on rocks or logs to avoid mud but not at the expense of the flora. If I have to I don`t mind trodding through.

whomeworry
102 reviewer rep
2,295 forum posts
July 14, 2010 at 6:33 a.m. (EDT)

The worst mud I ever encountered on a trail was on the east rim of Zion Canyon in April. One section was mucky clay, so slippery and steep, it was impossible to gain traction and proceed forward. The adjacent terrain was still covered with snow so my short detour left no permanent impact; but otherwise I agree, good stewardship mandates you limit wear and tear on the terrain by keeping to the trail.
Ed

D&G in the Smokys
75 reviewer rep
306 forum posts
July 14, 2010 at 8:27 p.m. (EDT)

I have to agree with Yock on this one. I think that the muddy boots give me a sort of feeling of accomplishment, as he said "a badge of honor" of sort. Personally, I purchased boots that had good heavy-duty lugs so they could find grip on the mud and shed it well enough to maintain the grip. I also like the extra work I get from tromping through the mud as it requires a bit more muscle exertion on my part, thus making it a more difficult hike. As for spending good money on boots just to get them dirty....well mud and dirt does wash off afterall...

DJ

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