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  1. #1

    Default Vermont Mud Season

    How bad is it to hike Vermont in May in light of the suggestions to avoid hiking there during mud season? May is our best time to hike. Do they actually close the trails?

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    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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  3. #3
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    They can't stop you from walking the AT portion. They might give you some flak, though.

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    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Early may or late may? Might make a huge difference. Early may will almost certainly be problematic. Mid-late may can be just fine. I hiked into Vermont in May of 2015, I cannot remember the exact date, maybe about May 12-15 or so along the AT. Everyone kept saying how muddy it would be and how bad a person I was to ignore the advice of not hiking in VT in "May". I kept saying that as soon as I hit any significant mud, I would stop and head out. Still, I was hollered at here on WB about how irresponsible I was... typical, some folks have their rigid minds and ignore circumstances. One guy, I forget who, said it would be "my worst nightmare".

    Anyway, as I said, always ready to stop whenever it got muddy... well, long story slightly shorter it NEVER GOT MUDDY, I was able to hike right through Vermont practically bone dry in May, all the way to the base of the White mountains in NH. Sure, I got lucky with a relatively dry year, but the thing is you might as well. I do respect the GMC's wishes to not do damage to the trail in VT by hiking the AT when extremely muddy, but it's not always muddy in May.

    And by the way, the trail was extremely crowded in May, at least to Maine Jct (where the AT branches off from the LT), lots and lots of college students heading north on the LT starting about the 2nd week in May. Past ME jct, the trail was way less crowded.

  5. #5

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    Rob is correct, mud season varies with the year. A low snow year will shift the start of mud season earlier and end later. Its going to happen, its just when. A dry spring will also speed things up. The region had two winters in a row that were fairly dry but this winter was normal so folks basing their decisions for this year on the prior two years are going to get a surprise.

    Few folks have the self discipline that Rob professes, to hike until they are having an impact on the trail and then skip forward. In practice this wouldn't work well in VT as the option of dropping down onto surface roads and paralleling the LT is not viable as it can be quite a detour. Just plain skipping VT and going forward to NH doesn't really help as mud season doesn't honor state lines, the soils are just as bad in NH and there is still mud season in NH. In the whites due to the usage, the AT has effectively been paved with rocks in many areas. Unfortunately with decreased funding and a major increase in selfish hikers that don't participate in trail maintenance, the required basic maintenance of even water diversion structures means that formerly good trails are breaking down.

    The mud will vary with elevation and soil conditions, far more common is the approach that when someone encounters a wet/muddy section is to make the problem worst by proceeding. Unfortunately trail damage is the "death by thousand cuts" in marginal soils. One hiker has little impact, but 10 have a bit more, 100 start doing serious damage and a 1000 can pretty well destroy a trail bed.

  6. #6
    Registered User VT-Mike's Avatar
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    Mud season trail closure is for the benefit of the trail not the hiker. The tread way in many sections is very fragile during this time of year. These sections can take a lot of effort to maintain (time, money, people power). The trail is always hike-able but sometime not able to withstand it. Please use tread lightly if you must travel this time of year.
    -My feet are my only carriage so I've got to push on through-

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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post

    Few folks have the self discipline that Rob professes, to hike until they are having an impact on the trail and then skip forward.
    My situation was nothing like that and wouldn't have involved "skipping forward". I (we) don't know what the OP's goal is... Mine was simply that I started in April in NJ and was just hiking as far NOBO along the AT as conditions warranted. No real discipline involved, every mile north was a bonus, I was ready to quit anytime knowing I was coming back in the late summer/early fall to finish the AT to Katahdin. It all worked out, but again, a dry year.

    And finally: who is going to tell/educate those hundreds of VT college students who hit the LT the 2nd week of May? Every one of those youngsters I talked to was from VT.
    Last edited by colorado_rob; 04-17-2017 at 08:11.

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    Worst mud I've encountered in VT was in August. But that was up near Canada, couple years ago.

  9. #9

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    The southern portion that doubles as the AT is more likely to be dry at that time
    If you go up near the CDN border, it'll more likely be sloppy

  10. #10
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    In early May at higher elevations (over 2500 feet say) there will still be snow.. possibly lots of it. Late may the snow should be pretty much gone except perhaps over 4000 feet in elevation and even there it will be diminishing rapidly. Assuming you try to hike on portions of the trail were the snow has melted during the month of May, you can expect frequent puddles and to hike through sopping mud. Expect your legs to get dirty. Bring gators. If you are crazy enough to be on the LT/AT this time of year.. be sure to hike THROUGH puddles and muddy sections and not arround them or you will only increase the damage to the trail. Now, even if you can deal with the mud and the puddles, and possibly lots of rain you will STILL have to deal with peak bug season. As a life long New Englander let me tell you you do NOT want to be hiking during peak bug season up here in the woods. You will be miseraable. You will use gobs and gobs of deet. Every time you stop there will be hoards of black flies and no seeums and other insects flying and buzzing all around you.

    Please do the trail and yourself a favor.. do NOT hike in the New England woods in May, and that goes tripply for the Long Trail!

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidNH View Post
    In early May at higher elevations (over 2500 feet say) there will still be snow.. possibly lots of it. Late may the snow should be pretty much gone except perhaps over 4000 feet in elevation and even there it will be diminishing rapidly. Assuming you try to hike on portions of the trail were the snow has melted during the month of May, you can expect frequent puddles and to hike through sopping mud. Expect your legs to get dirty. Bring gators. If you are crazy enough to be on the LT/AT this time of year.. be sure to hike THROUGH puddles and muddy sections and not arround them or you will only increase the damage to the trail. Now, even if you can deal with the mud and the puddles, and possibly lots of rain you will STILL have to deal with peak bug season. As a life long New Englander let me tell you you do NOT want to be hiking during peak bug season up here in the woods. You will be miseraable. You will use gobs and gobs of deet. Every time you stop there will be hoards of black flies and no seeums and other insects flying and buzzing all around you.

    Please do the trail and yourself a favor.. do NOT hike in the New England woods in May, and that goes tripply for the Long Trail!
    MAYBE this was the guy who scolded me and told me it "would be my worst nightmare" hiking in VT in May. It wasn't. It was nearly dry, the weather was perfect, it was wonderful. I don't even remember any bugs, seriously. NOT ALL YEARS ARE THE SAME! Obvious to most. I suppose this one is wetter though, so this blanket advice is probably correct for 2017.

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    Registered User DavidNH's Avatar
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    I'm just talking about how it normally is and were you are hiking. May is not optimal.

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    Usually late April through mid-May is the worst. There are sections where it is wet all year long, and if it rains the trail becomes a flowing creek, and sometimes a mud pit in places. The melt appears to be a bit early this year, and there isn't much snow remaining. But late season snows, rain, and colder temperatures can delay the trail drying out.

    The GMC, which maintains the LT and AT in VT really tries hard to keep the trail in good condition. A lot of effort goes into it. You should consider that that the mostly volunteer trail maintainers, who are also your fellow hikers, are politely asking you to stay off the trails until they dry out. Your choice as to whether you consider their efforts worthy of your respect.

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    How about the very end of May / early June? Good to go then?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Purposeful Wandering View Post
    How about the very end of May / early June? Good to go then?
    I've hiked fairly often in VT and NH on Memorial Day weekend and it's been fine. Check conditions later, in mid May, and again before you go.

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    Thank you!

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    Quote Originally Posted by rafe View Post
    They can't stop you from walking the AT portion. They might give you some flak, though.
    AFAIK, the only sections that are closed (or used to be closed) are the Camels Hump and Mt. Mansfield State Parks, further north on the LT.

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