Early spring is upon, or in southwest Colorado, I would rather refer to it as mud season. Cars are driving by bound for the high desert with mountain bikes stacked on the roof, rivers are running, the sun is shining, skies are blue and spring skiing in the backcountry is in full effect. After a few months of cabin fever taking over all logic, many avid hikers are ready to hit the trails already!
While the temperatures may be warming up and the sun may be making an occasional appearance, hiking in the spring can still bring rouge storms and unforeseen challenges. If you plan on hitting the trail within the next month or two you may want to keep these hiking tips in the back of your mind.
- Avoid trails that you know will be sloppy and allow them to dry out before tearing them up with your hard rubber soles. Trails at lower elevations with a more southern exposure will dry out quicker. This rule of thumb goes for mountain biking as well!
- If you do encounter a muddy stretch of trail, do not walk off trail to avoid it. Skirting the trail can damage the trailside vegetation, eventually leading to erosion. Staying on trail will aid in preventing unnecessary widening of the trail and soil erosion
- Keep your feet dry and warm by waterproofing your boots a couple of days prior to the hike. If the chance of hitting snow is still a possibility, consider wearing gaiters to help keep stones and much out of your boots.
- Streams will inevitably swell with the melting snow come spring. It is important to use care when approaching a stream crossing, as well plan ahead by checking the weather before hitting the trail. Spring rains combined with melting snow is a sure recipe for raging streams and rivers. If there is a chance that it might rain later, you may be better off turning around instead of risking the potential of being stranded later on. Keep in mind that water levels could be higher later in the day due to early morning snow and ice melt as the temperatures warm up.
- When crossing a stream it is best to unfasten the hip belt and sternum straps from the backpack so you can quickly remove in the off-chance of falling. Consider using hiking poles to help maintain balance when crossing a stream.
- Spring brings warmth and with warmth comes the return of biting insects. Be sure to pack protective clothing and repellent as needed.
Where will you be heading this spring? Be safe, take photos and above all enjoy!