Trail users can help minimize damage during mud season

MK Thompson Enlarge photo

MK Thompson

Happy spring, fellow trail users and outdoor enthusiasts. Even with all this beauty blooming around us, this can be a tough time of year. Itís mud season.

Mud season can make a person very antsy. And that can lead a person to do crazy things, such as use a trail or dirt road before it is dry enough. And that 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 ďthat person.Ē

Do what you can to get a report about trail conditions before heading out. Call the Forest Service, bike shops and outdoors stores, check the Trails 2000 website or ask your friends and neighbors.

If you donít have a trail report and the trail looks good at the start, keep these things in mind:

If there is water on the trail because of malfunctioning drainage or a 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 nonobvious path.

If there still is snow, stay on top of the snow.

If the mud continues for a while, it probably wonít 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 footprints because the tires create a continuous rut for water to flow along, which creates more erosion.

Mud season is not just muddy. Y ou might find a perfectly dry route that is plagued by fallen trees. The best thing to do with downfall is to move it off the trail (assuming the area regulations allow this). If it canít 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 downfall.

Following these simple tips can make for a summer full of beautiful trails. In the meantime, there are many dry trails in Horse Gulch, Philís World and Sand Canyon.

Happy trails.

MK Thompson is conservation education assistant for San Juan Mountains Association. SJMA is a nonprofit dedicated to public land stewardship and education.