It's Mud Season! What you need to know!
***Originally posted 4/15/19 on @publiclandshateyou***
As the snow melts, the weather warms up, and the spring rains arrive, let’s talk about mud season. Yeah, everyone wants to shake off that cabin fever and get out on their favorite trails at their local public lands. But going out on the trails too soon can cause irreparable damage. The @greenmountainclub out of Vermont did a wonderful post on their website. I’ve included some excerpts below, but do take the time to read the whole thing the as it has lots of great information.
“As the snow melts and the spring rains arrive, the ground can only hold so much water. Deep and wide mud puddles appear, sometimes taking up entire sections of trail. But we’re not just trying to keep you from getting dirty. Trails that are oversaturated are vulnerable to damage from soil compaction and erosion with every footstep. Soil compaction degrades the quality of the trail by reducing its ability to absorb water, causing increased flooding later and making it harder for vegetation to grow. Erosion then carries the soil away, leaving rocks and roots exposed.”
“Think you can just walk around that mud puddle blocking the trail? Think again – while walking around muddy areas will keep you dry, walking on the edges of trails tramples vegetation, widens the trail, and causes more damage to both trail and environment.”
“If you really can’t resist the call of the trail, stick to low elevations and south-facing slopes, which tend to dry out earlier in the season. But even in those places, be prepared to turn around if the trail is suddenly muddy. One of the seven principles of Leave No Trace outdoor ethics is to only travel on durable surfaces. Rock is durable. Hard, dry soil is durable. Mud is not durable. Help us protect the trail for use the rest of the year by turning around when you come upon a muddy section of trail. The trails will dry out and harden again soon enough and you’ll be back out hiking before you know it.”
Got all that? Wait the extra couple of days and save your local trail maintenance crew a whole boatload of work. They’ll thank you, and you’ll thank yourself later this season.
Artwork by Emily Benning.