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Five Seasons in the Rockies

4/14/2014 8:37:00 AM

Tags: mountain living, spring, Bruce McElmurray, Colorado

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Some would possibly contend that we have three seasons in the Rockies; winter which is our longest season, all other seasons combined and the dreaded mud season. We actually have five seasons with winter being the longest, sometimes up to 6 months long, and then spring, summer and fall. Our worst season is MUD season. That is when the winter snows change to water and slush, and coupled with the combination of warm days and cold nights they turn our roads and the ground into mud. This is the season that only lasts for a few weeks but clearly has the capability to make lives and travel miserable. Mud season is a time that tests your will to remain sane and cope with the never ending messy conditions.

Mud Season

Springtime in the mountains is when everything goes from brown or white to green. Animals come out of hibernation. It is a time when you can again see the ground and assess the damage winter may have caused. Wildflowers start to bloom and the meadows become radiant with a myriad of different colors. Birds build nests and hatch their young. It'ss a time when everything emerges fresh and new, and life is reborn again, and the freshness of the air is invigorating and dazzling colors return to the meadows and open areas. Sandwiched between winter and spring however is our most depressing season and that is mud season. Dirt roads become rutted bogs of soft clay, mud and rocks that require excellent driving skill. It is part of living in the mountains so most people, like us, just tough it out knowing that it is only a brief time all the time looking forward to what follows: spring, summer and fall. Mud season is that season to tolerate and persevere. Anyone who has lived on a dirt road in the mountains can relate to these words.

Mountain Dirt Roads

Mountain roads are generally dirt roads and require the wisdom of Solomon and the precision of a watch maker to drive safely on them. Mud season is a sensitive time of year for roads because if you drive on them when they're real soft you can do irreparable harm to them. Recently our grader operator plowed our road when it should have been left alone. Over night we had received 13” of snow and the temperatures were around freezing. Then the sun came up and it warmed up to the 40’s and the snow melted as did the dirt under it. When the grader came around at 5:00 P.M. the ground was soft and the snow had turned to slush. 

One careless attempt to plow the small amount of remaining snow destroyed our road. The grader sunk 6” or more in the mud allowing the blade to scrape off much of the road base and dirt that had been on the road. With the gooey mud the grader then was having trouble staying on the road leaving deep ruts that went all over the road. Our perfectly functional road of 17 years was gone in one careless moment. Once the grader had started down the road the operator couldn’t help but see what damage was being inflicted on the road, but it was too late to turn around as there was no place wide enough to turn around and head back.

Adapting to Mud

While we were heartsick over this occurrence the result is that we now have to plan trips to shop when the road is frozen early in the morning and return before it thaws out. We are required to adjust to a sloppy road and hope that our land owner association will repair the roads soon, which is looking doubtful at the moment. Mud season is a time of year when patience is tested, vehicle endurance is tested and adaptability is required. Four wheel drive is absolutely necessary this time of year. The aftermath of having our road destroyed now rests in the hands of those within our land owner association. Like most associations of this kind, ours is not always functional and presently our road also is equally non-functional. We have noticed that other roads have been damaged and hence we may have to get in line to get much needed road base reapplied to our road.

Never the less, the dirt roads this time of year become a hazard to use and extra caution is needed. While winter is harsh it is predictable and more easy to adapt to than mud season. Mud season lasts as long as the snow continues to melt and the temperatures are warm during the day. It is dependent on the volume of snow received in the winter. The snow or rain we do receive this time of year is wet and contributes to making more and deeper mud. The moisture does provide the necessary moisture to see us through the rest of the year so we put up with the mud. Soon it will have melted off and our roads will be more passable. It is also that time of year when we take special precautions not to track mud into the house. Our mud season doesn’t last over a few weeks but it can reduce a well behaved and calm person to hysteria and fits of anger.


Receiving deliveries and having services preformed by outside repairmen are far more difficult during the dreaded mud season. Mud season is a very real season in the mountains just like the other four seasons are. Some have suggested that we pave our roads but steep winding roads once paved tend to ice over easily and getting in and out of our community would be impossible to accomplish safely under those conditions. So this is our time of year when we exercise patience, use extra caution, and fondly look forward to the best of springtime.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and mountain living go to:

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