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.