Ahhh spring. You've got to love spring hiking. As the snow disappears and the daytime temperatures finally reach levels comfortable enough to show a little skin, we all catch the urge to head out to the trails. If you're hitting the hiking trails this spring, keep these three things in mind.
Mud is your friend: The biggest thing people complain about with spring hiking is hiking in the mud. It's dirty. It's messy. It sticks to your boots. So what? Isn't getting dirty part of the fun of experiencing the outdoors?
Remember, it's best to walk right through the middle of a muddy trail. Don't walk around mud holes. If everyone walks farther and farther around a muddy spot the trail gets wider (and so does the mud). Follow the Leave No Trace principles and get a little dirty.
You may not want to break in brand new shoes or boots on muddy trails. If you want to keep your brand new boots looking pretty, leave them at home until things dry up a bit. Or better yet, just get them dirty. That's why you bought them, right?
Layers are still important: Spring weather can change quickly. A cool breeze can ruin what looks like a beautiful spring day. It can still be very chilly in the morning and cool at night. Be prepared for changing temperatures, wind and precipitation with proper layering. Oh, and bring sunscreen. (You haven't already forgotten about that nasty sunburn you got last spring have you?)
A tiny bit of trail maintenance can really help. Sometimes a very slight effort to divert running water off the trail can make a big difference. I know you aren't a professional trail builder and many things should be left to the experts, but you might be able to prevent a lot of trail damage. Last spring I was hiking a local trail, as I climbed a very messy and quickly eroding steep section of trail I reached the top to realize all that water was running down the trail because the slight ditch put in by the trail builders was clogged. I saw the problem, kicked one rock out of the way and the water began traveling off the trail instead of washing out the entire trail.
On my return an hour or two later that whole area was drying out and the running water was staying off the trail. Again, if you don't know what you are doing, don't screw up a well designed trail but if you see a simple fix, kick over a rock and improve the trail for everyone.
Keep these three spring hiking tips in mind as you hit the trails this season. Whatever it takes, get out there and enjoy it.
Hiking in the Mud: Great Spring Hiking
By Andy Hawbaker
April 01, 2014
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