On the Trail: Muddy when wet | AspenTimes.com
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On the Trail: Muddy when wet

Springtime in the Rockies means you’re wearing shorts one minute and fleece the next, and the condition of area hiking trails is nearly as unpredictable as the weather.At my house, outdoor adventures are strategically planned and executed with a single goal in mind: We pick a hike where we think the dogs can get a good workout without coating themselves in the terra firma.It started a month or more ago, when we all headed to Red Mountain – the one in Glenwood Springs, not the one in Aspen – figuring the dirt road would be sufficiently dried out while the terrain in the upper valley was still a soggy mess. It was a good plan, in theory. The road was in good shape, but the dogs didn’t stick to the road. All the interesting stuff was in the mud off to the side.Since then, they’ve been collecting copious samples of the earth from the midvalley to Aspen on a regular basis. Their underbellies get washed more often than a starlet’s limo.Hike day is bath day at our house, where the conversation goes something like this: “It’s your turn to wash ’em.” “Uh-uh. I did it last time.” “No, you cleaned the bathroom last time, not the dogs.”Saturday night’s snow blanketed Aspen, but in the midvalley, the snow line hung low on Basalt Mountain. We resigned ourselves to a muddy outing, and it didn’t disappoint.The gate above Missouri Heights was open – a sign the Forest Service thinks the roads up there are dry enough to drive and bike. Not on Sunday they weren’t. We drove to the parking lot, about 2 miles up from the gate, and started walking.Low clouds encased the mountaintops and obliterated Mount Sopris from view. The wet snow clung to the budding aspen leaves and the covered the ground, penetrated by shoots of new, verdant grass. The world was white and green – and brown.The road oozed beneath our every footstep until our hiking boots were caked with the equivalent of wet cement.The dogs, oblivious to their fate, ran through the slop with glee. Needless to say, the joy disappears as soon as the garden hose and buckets materialize in the backyard.Early Tuesday, I headed up the Arbaney-Kittle Trail in Holland Hills. I left the dogs at home and felt guilty about it the whole way up.Here’s the thing: They were clean. And I wanted to keep them that way.Here’s the thing that made me feel really guilty: The trail was nicely firm.


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