Hiking, running, snowshoeing, skiing (whichever variety) and even biking in the snow can be a lot of fun, but, outside the high country, snow doesn't last long in Colorado. When it falls, you have to act quickly and enjoy it while the opportunity presents itself.

When the snow melts, it can become icy and dangerous. Then comes the messy mud. You can mitigate slipping on ice pretty simply by wearing some kind of traction aid — YakTrax, MicroSpikes or something similar. Mud, however, is a different story. Mud can be slippery, but mostly it's just a gooey, wet mess, and when we encounter it on a trail, we tend to try stay out of it. After all, didn't our mom's tell us to not play in the mud? Usually we try to avoid the stuff by going around it. And that's the wrong way to deal with mud.

Going around these sections on trails can create erosion by killing plants that hold the soil together and can cause a widening of the trail, or causes parallel rogue trails. And while hiking down the middle of a muddy trail is preferable to going around it, it's not without its consequences — like dirty, wet boots and socks, as well as the creating rutted trails, which have to be fixed later.

So, what are you to do when the trails are muddy? Staying off muddy trails entirely is a good place to start. This might be a good time to try a paved trail (yes, a sidewalk...), or to find trails that are still snowpacked. If you start off on a dry trail and run into muddy sections, stay on the trail. Yes, you'll still cause some damage, but it's the lesser of all evils. You can mitigate the effects of the mud by wearing waterproof boots, and wearing gaiters will help keep your pants clean and your legs dry and warm.

The first two Leave No Trace principles are to "Plan Ahead and Prepare" and to "Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces." Do yourself a favor and plan accordingly — and happy trails.   

Be Good. Do Good Things. Leave No Trace.

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