BLOOMINGTON — It’s raining, it’s raining, but staying home is boring.
Exploring the outdoors has definitely been a challenge this spring. Even if it’s not raining, the trails are rough with mud holes waiting to suck the shoes off your feet – or so it seems.
But if you only hike in perfect conditions, you’ll miss some of nature’s seasonal beauty, from raindrops on flower petals to magnificent waterfalls.
Yes, April rain brings muddy terrain. But with proper preparation, you can still go out and enjoy.
Here are some do’s and don’ts for the April hike.
• First walk through mud and puddles on the trail. Don’t trample the vegetation and widen the trail trying to get around the goop.
April showers won’t bring Mayflowers if you destroy their home before they have a chance to bloom.
Lisa Sons, natural resources coordinator at Starved Rock State Park, saw a lot of unnecessary damage caused by wayward hikers.
“Please don’t create unnecessary new trails to avoid walking through mud or puddles on the trail,” she said in a post on the state parks Facebook page. by Starved Rock and Matthiessen. “It destroys the habitat of wildlife and plant species that make the park special.”
She recommends wearing waterproof hiking boots that reach at least the ankle, rubber rain boots, or old tennis shoes you don’t care about.
“Bring dry socks and shoes to change into at the car, and put dirty shoes in a plastic bag if you’re worried there’s mud in the car,” she said.
• Check the weather forecast before you leave home.
This means not only current conditions, but also what is expected later. Also remember that while a nice warm top can be expected, it may not occur until later in the day. Bring several options, including a raincoat or at least a large trash bag that you can “carry” in an emergency by making holes for your head and arms.
Don’t rely on apps alone. Use your eyes. Your smartphone may say it won’t rain for a few hours, but if you see a dark cloud running towards you, don’t ignore it. Another saying to remember is: when the thunder rolls, come inside.
• Look for durable surfaces, especially if you don’t want to deal with mud.
There are several options for hiking on paved trails if you want to walk in the rain or avoid a muddy mess. They include Bloomington-Normal’s Constitution Trail, Bloomington’s Tipton Park, and the Macon County Conservation District’s Rock Springs Conservation Area in Decatur.
• Let a smile be your umbrella.
The right attitude can be as important as the right clothes. A smile won’t keep you dry, but it can help you enjoy rather than just endure a dreary day.
Many avid adventurers will tell you that days spent outdoors in less than optimal conditions are often the most memorable, though the fun may not be realized until you’re back in your car or home.
And on some days, such as when it’s cold and windy or your planned route crosses fragile terrain, the best choice is to stay home.
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