It’s spring! What does the season call to mind for you? Baby animals? Tulips? Puddle jumping? Green grass? Sneezing?!
In the vicinity of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, Teton Science Schools’ home base, spring is also known as mud season. A serious tug of war between warm and cold is underway. Temperatures might climb to 60 degrees Fahrenheit one day and deliver fresh snow the next. Mountainous snow piles diminish to dirt-stained remnants in record time. Snow that will persist on north-facing slopes through July melted from south-facing aspects in late March. Birds return from far-flung places to build their nests even though most nights still dip below freezing. The earliest wildflowers of spring emerge in places where the ground is sun-warmed enough to coax them awake.
And while welcome signs of spring are present all around, this transitional time of year can make getting outside tricky. On many trails, there is not quite enough snow to ski, but still too much to hike. A day that starts warm and calm might end windy and downright cold. And then there’s the mud factor. Freshly washed cars look worse than they have all winter after a short stretch of dirt road. Boots remain the footwear of choice, not so much for warmth as for a shield from the oozy mud.
But sunny and longer days call for exploration and enjoyment. And whether you’re getting out for a solo mission, with other grown-ups, or have young children in tow, we can all use encouragement to get more Vitamin N. Here are some suggestions for making the most of mud season:
Layers, Layers, Layers
Dress for variable conditions. Pack a waterproof layer in case of unexpected precipitation. It can also be a good idea to dress kids in waterproof outerwear even when there’s no chance of rain if they’re likely to be in contact with wet ground or vegetation. Bring an extra warm layer to avoid your excursion being cut short if the wind picks up or the temperature suddenly drops.
It’s Called the Mudroom for a Reason
In regions like ours that feature a hearty mud season, houses often have a small entry room specially designed for shedding muddy boots and clothes before entering the main living space. So embrace the mess, and look for ways to contain it in its rightful places.
Find a Suitable Spot for your Adventure
Hoping for one last ski? Find a north-facing or heavily shaded area that is likely to have good snow cover. Looking for wildflowers? Head to areas where the snow has been melted the longest and explore south-facing slopes. Excited to get back on your bike? Check for places that have dry road or trail conditions and go for a spin.
Be Inspired by Learning Something New
Commit to learning the names of three new birds or plants in your region. Keep a nature journal to record signs of the changing season. Find a hiking club in your area and explore new trails.
Are you involved in early childhood education? Join Teton Science Schools faculty and keynote Ayana Verdi for In Mud, a virtual workshop where you’ll learn more about working with children in natural environments.