Warm weather, rain affects local hiking trails

Unseasonably warm temperatures and increased rainfall throughout the Dayton region have impacted the condition of the area’s hiking trails while also keeping attendance up during the early stages of the winter season.

Credit: Jordan Hart

caption arrowCaption
Unseasonably warm temperatures and increased rainfall throughout the Dayton region have impacted the condition of the area’s hiking trails while also keeping attendance up during the early stages of the winter season.

Credit: Jordan Hart

Credit: Jordan Hart

Unseasonably high temperatures and increased rainfall throughout the region have affected the condition of the area’s hiking trails while also keeping attendance up during the early stages of the winter season.

Though the high temperatures have allowed area residents to enjoy the trails more frequently than normal during this time of year, the increased usage combined with inclement weather has made it difficult for the trails to dry out, said Five Rivers MetroParks Park Manager Mike Osborne.

“Wet trails are always a challenge, and this season has been a little more challenging, because generally we start to get a little more freeze, so the trails will be a little bit more solid,” Osborne said. “But with the warm and wet weather, it’s created a lot more challenging conditions.”

Even though the current conditions are far from ordinary, Glen Helen Nature Preserve Executive Director Nick Boutis said that people using the preserve’s trails have adapted well to the unusual circumstances and haven’t expressed concerns or complaints about the state of the hiking paths.

“People are understanding that the trail system is driven by the weather and if it’s raining, the trails are going to be wet,” Boutis said.

The warm weather is giving Dayton residents additional chances to spend time outdoors, which can be hard to come by during the winter months. For this reason, people should be capitalizing on these conditions as much as they can, said Dayton Hikers hike leader and Xenia resident Greg Hull.

caption arrowCaption
Though the high temperatures have allowed area residents to enjoy the trails more frequently than normal during this time of year, the increased usage combined with inclement weather has made it difficult for the trails to dry out, said Five Rivers MetroParks Park Manager Mike Osborne. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Jordan Hart

Though the high temperatures have allowed area residents to enjoy the trails more frequently than normal during this time of year, the increased usage combined with inclement weather has made it difficult for the trails to dry out, said Five Rivers MetroParks Park Manager Mike Osborne. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Jordan Hart

caption arrowCaption
Though the high temperatures have allowed area residents to enjoy the trails more frequently than normal during this time of year, the increased usage combined with inclement weather has made it difficult for the trails to dry out, said Five Rivers MetroParks Park Manager Mike Osborne. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Jordan Hart

Credit: Jordan Hart

“You know, it’s one of those things you have to take advantage of,” Hull said. “Because, you get 60-plus weather in December, it doesn’t happen very often. So you need to cash in on that.”

For downtown Dayton resident and frequent hiker Paul Benson, the warm weather reminds him of a different season altogether.

“(It’s) strange,” Benson said. “Hearing robins singing as if it’s April is a little unsettling.”

The warm weather and winter rainfall have also caused an uptick in muddy spots throughout the region’s trails. While it might seem easier for hikers to avoid those patches by walking on either side of them, the most beneficial approach is to walk right through them to prevent erosion, widening of the trails and damage to surrounding vegetation, according to Osborne.

“It’s human nature to want to walk around a muddy spot,” Osborne said. “It might just take a few seconds for you to walk around the trail. When you’re walking around that spot, it could take staff and volunteers hours to restore those sections.”

Caesar’s Creek Park Naturalist Erin Shaw has worked at the park for over a decade, and she’s seen the effect that such actions can have on a trail or path.

“I have definitely seen the trails change,” Shaw said. “Throughout time, I see them getting wider.”

Preserving the trails and surrounding environment aligns with the overall mission of Five Rivers and their trails, Osborne added.

“That’s our goal, is to be good stewards of the land, protect our region’s natural heritage and also be able to provide the best outdoor positive experience we can.”

Osborne, Boutis and Shaw recommended that hikers take appropriate precautions before hiking in difficult conditions. Proper equipment, including durable boots, hiking poles and warm clothing, is encouraged, as is potentially hiking earlier in the day before temperatures rise when the ground is likely to be more solid.

In addition, it can be helpful for hikers to keep their cellphones fully charged, bring plenty of drinking water and to be observant of their surroundings, as precipitation and recent strong winds make it more likely that a tree could fall near a path, Shaw said.

However, Dayton’s abundance of paved trails provides plenty of alternative options for prospective hikers if the conditions on their usual paths are less than ideal, Osborne added.

“It’s a great opportunity to maybe explore some areas that you haven’t,” he said. “If your favorite trail is muddy, go hop on a section of paved trail for a hike or a bike (ride) and maybe see some areas that are new to you.”

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