JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — Recent warm weather in Colorado has been a blessing for hikers and bikers alike, but it's causing a headache for Jefferson County park officials because many people are straying from the path to avoid mud and ice.
The county's message about it: "Hike through mud, not around it."
That's the sign posted at Apex Park in Jefferson County. Unseasonably warm weather has hikers and bikers hitting the trails in record numbers, but this curve ball from Mother Nature has been a mixed blessing.
The problem? It's January. People on the trail quickly hit patches of ice and mud, and veer off the path to stay clean.
Matt Robins, with Jefferson County Open Space, said the extra tracks from those detours are sometimes doubling the size of a trail and causing irreparable damage.
"Once you leave the trail, you're actually trampling some of this foliage and greenery. That might take years and years to grow back," he said.
Signs are posted throughout Apex, telling hikers to hike through the mud, but not everyone is aware why they're being asked to do so.
"It used to be this wide, now it's like this," said longtime resident Doug Harwood, talking about the trail at Apex Park.
Harwood has been walking the trail with his dog, Whiskey, for years. He always stays on the path, but understands the temptation to stray.
"I don't think anybody does it maliciously. They just think, 'I don't want to walk through the mud and get all dirty,'" he said.
Taylor Smith, a resident of Arvada, hikes the trails twice a week with her dog, "Stevie Ticks." - yes that's the pup's name.
"I understand why now they put those signs up, but safety comes first," Smith said. "If you feel like you're going to slip and fall on the mud, you have to make your own trail."
To avoid that issue, Smith puts spikes on her boots.
And with more 60-degree weather on tap, Robbins said there will be mud, so be prepared to get dirty.
"Wear the boots, the old tennis shoes, the old hiking equipment, and walk through that mud and not around it," he said.
Jeffco Open Space officials say hikers can always check trail conditions on-line before heading out.