If you leave tracks, turn back

Mar 06, 2014
Mud season at Whychus Canyon Preserve means hikers should check trail conditions before proceeding. Read on for why...

The Land Trust's Whychus Canyon Preserve is becoming a favorite hiking spot for many locals. Its lack of snow pack tends to make it accessible during the winter and it is one of the first places you can hike in the spring. Come summer, the desert sagelands and rimrock canyon prove too hot for many, but by fall, trails once again beckon.

This spring as you head out to Whychus Canyon Preserve for an early season hike, we ask that you help us keep our trails in great shape by not hiking on them when they are muddy. Keep this short mantra "if you leave tracks, turn back" in mind.

Mud is part of spring in Central Oregon--especially in those arid sagebrush lands that receive moisture at this time of year. Rains or snows that may seem inconsequential in town may provide just the right conditions for ankle-deep, sucking mud. The best way to ensure you're not stuck in that mud is to get a trail report before you head out. Call the Land Trust or check our website as we usually post when conditions are poor. If you find yourself at the Preserve and you encounter mud:

  1. Please turn back. This will help keep our trails happy and hikeable!
  2. If you encounter a small patch of mud or snow, walk through it, NOT around it. Walking around causes erosion, widens trails, and damages sensitive, slow growing desert plants.
  3. If the mud continues beyond isolated patches, turn around, it probably won't get better! Even if you walk through it....
  4. Remember, when trails through the sagebrush meadows can be dry, north facing or shady trails in and out of the canyon can still be muddy.
  5. Take a deep breath, we know you planned your hike at Whychus Canyon, but you can come back and hike another day. Your sacrifice today will ensure that these trails are there for years to come. Try staying your favorite paved or gravel trail until things dry out.

So, why should you turn back if you encounter mud? In short, to keep our trails happy and here for the future. When you hike or run on a muddy trail, your foot leaves an imprint in the soil. Rain and melting snow settles in these spots eventually forming a puddle. Future trail users tend to either go through further deepening the indents, or around widening the trail. Over time deep ruts and holes are formed which require immense work to repair. Trails on slopes, like in and out of Whychus Canyon, are at even greater risk for damage because ruts trap water and channel it down the trail.

The good news is, mud season at Whychus Canyon is short--especially relative to wet climate mud seasons! Following these simple tips will allow us to keep these trails the community asset that they are. Thank you!