Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mud season on the Duluth SHT

If you like to get muddy when you hike, hit the Superior Hiking Trail in Duluth now. According to Larry Sampson, the Duluth-area trail maintenance guru, the snow is basically gone from the trail here, except around Spirit Mountain, where man-made snow is still on the trail.

But lack of snow does not good hiking make. Yet.

Late last week, the SHT in Hartley Park, as seen above, was basically clear of snow. But the mud was just settling in. The dog and I turned around after five minutes, since I wasn't prepared for the goop factor.

Trail managers have mixed feelings about muddy trails. When I helped with the first edition of the Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail, I tried to describe which sections of the trail were muddy and which weren't. Tom Peterson, the lead trail builder and designer, told me, "When it rains, the whole trail is muddy." When the footbed is muddy, it's much more prone to erosion, and so some trail people would rather you stayed off the trail until it dries up a bit.

Good trail design looks for ways to optimize drainage, so that mud is less of a problem. But no one is advocating putting 6 inches of gravel down on the Superior Hiking Trail for better drainage.

The sun is out, the snow is going or gone, ephemeral ponds are filling with chorus frogs, the warblers are nearly back in town. It's mud season. Enjoy it or avoid it.


Anonymous said...

It's nice how mud season and black fly season overlap, isn't it? Just when the trails are at their deepest and slowest, you want the most speed.

Blogging the North Shore said...

Oh, man, takes me back to last May on the Bryce-Breon Trail way up by Gunflint Lake. Beautiful trail, but the blackflies and ticks were out and I could not go fast enough through the grassy muddy ski trails. I felt like one of those characters from bad comic books, arms waving frantically as I ran/walked out of the forest. If one of the Border Patrol trucks had been there, they would have sent me to Guantanamo Bay.

Blogging the North Shore said...

I downplayed it back here
But those Gunflint blackflies were awful. It took a full Moo-Latte at the DQ in Grand Marais to recover.

Anonymous said...

Black flies: the horror..... the horror.....