Get Muddy; Stay on the Trail!
This time of the year can be very frustrating for trail users. The warm weather we are having is melting the accumulated snow and is causing the ground to thaw out and create soft and damp trail surface conditions. Although they might be dry at the trailhead, as you ascend the hillsides, most trails are still muddy and soft due to weather conditions varying in higher elevation and trails that are south facing. This is not only true at this time of the year but also come early spring when we have an increase in snow-melt runoff.
The trail surface of the ground is still frozen and water from the melting snow isn’t able to be absorbed or to drain. This makes the trails soft, muddy and sloppy. Become familiar with the trail system and pay attention to the trails and trail segments that dry out first. Service roads like the Manor House Trail, Hogback Trail and Cathy Johnson Trail can absorb more damage and usually dry out faster than single-track trails.
Avoid higher elevation trails like Upper Bradford (over Tin Cup) and trails in softer soils like the Lyons Hogback Trail. Avoid high snow-melt times. Trails are generally more solid in the early morning hours. Trails tend to be sloppier in the afternoon. The key to trail conservation in the fall and spring is to stay on the trail.
Winter Trail Use Tips:
• If you must go out on the trail, stay on the trail surface at all times.
• In winter, ride or hike early in the morning when trails are frozen and hard.
• If you encounter stretches of mud, ride or walk through them. Don’t leave the trail as this kills trailside vegetation and leads to trail widening and trail braiding.
• Try using south-facing trails as they will dry up much quicker and allow for faster accessibility.
We must try to resist the temptation to go around muddy sections of trail and create a new route around wet sections. Before you know it, they will be dry, and the summer riding, hiking, and equestrian use will be that much sweeter for all of us.