Mud beneath snow — it’s spring
Spring is like a scavenger hunt for the senses. Each spring, I find once again my nose being tickled by sweet smells, my ears filled with melodies I haven’t heard in months and I revel in the warming temperatures by swapping out my ski boots for hiking boots. Nature stimulates our minds with the return of fragrant tree buds, melodious feathered friends and mud that seems to coat everything which was once before covered in snow. These signs of spring (and many more) are often welcomed, for their presence beckons the summer season right around the corner.
Can’t avoid the mud
One of the first signs of spring we as humans might notice is an urge to prepare for the upcoming summer months. This urge manifests itself in many forms. Some channel it into bouts of spring cleaning sprees while others are out skiing in spring powder up to their knees. But no matter how you enjoy spring, before nature begins its rapid transition into the summer season, there’s one thing no one can avoid and that’s the mud. It accumulates on the sides of our cars, on the bottoms of our boots and is pretty inevitable this time of year in Colorado. The mud can either be seen as a burden or as a welcomed guest as we anticipate the oncoming summer months. Because along with the mud comes the return of lush green shoots, and the wildlife that depends on them.
Time of Growing
Many animals that hibernate or lay low through the winter emerge once again in the spring, and often appear with a fresh new litter of offspring. It’s not uncommon in this area between April and May to see a bear with two to three cubs, a fox family (also called a leash) with two to seven young kits or a female moose with her single calf. Animal babies are as exciting as they are vulnerable, and it’s important we give these new members of our natural community, and their new parents, plenty of space. As these young animals learn and grow, so do the lush plants, from the valley floor to the top of the mountains, everything seems to be budding with new growth and possibility.
Smell of Spring
Coniferous trees, such as the Colorado blue spruce and lodgepole pines, don’t lose their needles, but they still grow tremendously and produce pungent signs of spring growth like their deciduous counterparts. This new growth comes with generous amounts of pollen, which is what produces the sweet smells we associate with this time of year. Spring temperatures and longer days awaken trees and other plants from their dormant winter cycle and with the onslaught of spring run-off from melting snow, they grow rapidly in a relatively short period of time. Newly budding trees, shrubs, and wildflowers are some of the most visible and well known signs of spring that we look forward to year after year.
Whether you are pulling out your bike to ride to work, walking along Vail’s Gore Creek, or finally driving with the windows down, the signs of spring will be all around. The mud might keep us off our favorite trails for a little while (because nobody wants to add to trail erosion, right?), but there’s still plenty to enjoy in the sights, sounds and smells of springtime in the mountains.
Brooke Friesen is a naturalist at Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon, who has already started with spring allergies. Even so, she spends all of her time outside, hiking and hoping to see a bear from afar. Come join her on a nature walk at the center, offered free everyday at 2 p.m.