As we wind down the season and await the first significant snow that will cover the trails until Spring, we wanted to discuss the factors that will help you make good decisions and have a better idea of trail conditions before you get to the trailhead.
At this point, there are still some trails in the valley that are not covered with snow. The Croy trail system is practically snow-free and, as recently as last weekend, has been providing some epic trail conditions. Those conditions though, have changed over the last several days. Here’s why:
Trail conditions in the Spring and Fall are much like snow conditions in that they can change day to day without receiving additional precipitation. Why is that? Because we have enough moisture in the soil that when the freeze/thaw cycle kicks in, the trails inevitably become muddy once they thaw out during the day. The trails will often even appear to be “dry” when they’re frozen. However, as soon as they slightly thaw, that moisture works it’s way to the surface and the trail can quickly become a gooey, slippery mess. If you find yourself on the trails in these conditions, you are causing trail damage and should turn around.
An interesting situation occurred last weekend that highlights the “freeze/thaw effect”. On Saturday, there were beautiful trail conditions. A lack of overnight freezes for several days had allowed the trails to firm up and most of the moisture to work it’s way down into the ground. On Saturday night we received a copious (for our area) amount of rain. By Sunday afternoon, the Croy trails were in even better shape than they were on Saturday. How is that possible? Because the temperatures overnight on Saturday never got below freezing, which allowed the rain to soak into the ground and the trails to firm up.
Now, look at the trail conditions that have developed over the latter half of this week. Suddenly, the trails have become a muddy, gooey, slipfest in the afternoons. Why is that? Because, without receiving any additional precipitation, the freeze/thaw cycle has returned and has pulled moisture back to the surface causing muddy conditions to develop during the thaw of the day.
The bottom line is that this moisture will be in the soil until the season-ending snowfall does arrive. In the mean time, please be very aware of trail conditions and weather patterns. If we go a night or two without a freeze, the trails will be in phenomenal shape. If temperatures got below freezing the night before, then you need to get out there early before the trails thaw out.
We hope this information is helpful in knowing when you might find trails in good shape and when they might be a muddy mess. Timing is everything until the snow flies, so get out there and enjoy it when it’s good!