April showers bring May… mud? Wait, that’s not the saying, is it? April showers might bring blooms come May, but it also brings a ton of mud on the trail. For those of us in New England, we’re no strangers to rainy springs. Spring is always welcomed after the dreary days of winter but with it comes ticks, mosquitos, allergies, and (you guessed it) mud!
Mud can be really fun, though. If you’re anything like my kid, you can spend hours in the mud making mud pies, getting trucks dirty (then cleaning them up at the carwash), and making “chocolate” ice cream. Unfortunately, mud can also be a headache particularly for those on the trail.
But did you know there is certain a trail etiquette when it comes to mud?
I know most folks’ reaction to mud when they are on the trail is to go around it. They usually don’t want to get their shoes (or their kids’ shoes) dirty. But the correct way to proceed on a trail when you encounter mud is to go through it.
It’s true! It might seem weird to do it, and it most certainly will be dirty, but it’s the correct thing to do on the trail. There are, however, some nuances with that. Here’s the sequence you should work through when assessing how to proceed on a muddy trail:
- How muddy is it? Is it so muddy that you’re sinking up to your ankles and there seems to be no end in sight? If that’s the case, turn around and come back to the trail during a less wet season. If too many people go through the mud, it’ll start altering the trail and potentially eroding the areas around it.
- If it’s super muddy but there are rocks and other hard surfaces to walk on, try your best to only use them when you continue on the trail. This can be tricky since many times those surfaces could be slippery and much harder for smaller (aka kiddo-sized) feet. So, always proceed with caution.
- If it’s not that muddy and it’s only a small stretch of the trail, then walk right through it! That’s right; do NOT walk around it. When you walk around the mud, it widens the trail and accelerates soil erosion on the trail. As outdoor enthusiasts, we want to avoid that at all costs!
Many times, public lands will be closed during the rainy season if it’s particularly vulnerable to soil erosion. Always adhere to trail closures – they’re there for a reason! Other public lands won’t necessarily close but will warn recreation users to the conditions on the trail. Come prepared with good footwear and gaiters if you don’t want to get your pants wet. Always be prepared to turn around and head back to the trailhead.
It can also be tempting to stop and play in the mud especially when you’re hiking with little ones. Letting your child truly immerse themselves in nature is something every parent should do, but limit that playtime on the trail. Play all you want in your backyard at home, but while on the trail, make sure to keep playing in the mud to a minimum.
When you and your child play in mud, it leaves deep gullies and depressions in the soil which can accelerate soil erosion. Again, this is something we want to avoid. Instead, bring incentives to keep your kiddo moving along on the trail. I’m always a fan of mini M&Ms and bubbles!! Bubbles truly solve any problem on the trail.
The important thing is that we’re not made of sugar, right? Well, maybe some of us are. But that means we won’t dissolve when it rains and should get out with your kiddos in all seasons! April might bring showers but it also brings longer days so we can adventure to our heart’s content!