Happy spring, fellow trail users and outdoor enthusiasts! Even with all this beauty blooming around us, this can be a tough time of year. Its mud season. Mud season can make a person very, very antsy. This antsiness can lead a person to do crazy things, like use a trail or dirt road before it is dry enough. This can cause nasty trail damage that sometimes takes years to correct or requires major repairs.
When recreating during mud season, here are some things to keep in mind to avoid becoming that person.
Do what you can to get a trail conditions report before heading out. Call the Forest Service, bike shops and hiking stores, check the Trails2000 website, or ask around to your friends and neighbors.
If you dont have a trail report and the trail looks good at the start, keep these things in mind:
If there is water on the trail due to a malfunctioning drainage or water bar, clear the debris so the water can flow off the trail. This will only take a minute and will help the trail dry out faster.
If you encounter a puddle or muddy section, go through the middle of it. Going around only makes the trail wider and causes erosion. Keep singletrack single.
If the mud is too sloppy to go through, go way around. Cut through the bushes and meander on a non-obvious path.
If there is still snow, stay on top of the snow.
If the mud continues for a while, it probably wont get any better. Turn around!
Another thing to consider is how much damage your mode of travel may cause. Heavier things sink in more, creating deeper ruts and holes. Tires do more damage than foot prints because the tires create a continuous rut for water to flow along, which creates more erosion.
Mud season is not just muddy. You can find a perfectly dry route that is plagued by downfallen trees. The best thing to do with downfall is to move it off the trail (assuming the area regulations allow for this). If it cant be moved, the least damaging way to deal with downfall is to go directly over or under it. Going around causes erosion, especially on a side hill. If you are on a bicycle or horse, it is best to dismount while dealing with the downfall.
Thanks for taking the time to read. Following these simple tips can make for a summer full of beautiful trails. In the meantime, there are many dry trails in Horse Gulch, Phils World and Sand Canyon. Happy trails.
MK Thompson is the conservation education assistant for the San Juan Mountains Association, headquartered in Durango.