While most people enjoy four seasons a year, in the Methow Valley there’s an extra one: mud season.
It starts in the south end of the valley as early as the first week of March; in Mazama it begins much later and goes on till the end of April. Some folks say there’s no such thing as spring, only winter, mud season, and early summer.
People know mud season has arrived when a formerly white landscape turns to rushing brown rivulets of water. Driving to work in the morning, roads are hard and dry. Returning in late afternoon you splash through slush and muck.
After a while the slush is gone, but deep puddles remain due to snow melting off berms along the edge of the road. By the end, snow is gone from everywhere but the berms, which continue to make driving a muddy mess.
Cars and trucks don’t get washed for months. There’s no point — they’ll only get dirty again. It’s easy to recognize folks who live at the end of long dirt roads. Their vehicles have streaks of mud clear up to the door handles long after everybody else has been to the carwash.
Walking is a challenge, whether it’s scuffing through slush in the grocery store parking lot or sinking up to your knees in snow that just yesterday held your weight. It’s shocking to hit soft ground and sink into mud that sucks a snow boot right off.
There’s good reason so many homes in the Methow have mud rooms. Floors become different shades of brown and grey as gunk settles and dries. Sherwin-Williams would do well to come up with some mud season paint names such as “Carlton slush” or “cat print umber.” Many in the Methow would buy them just to disguise the mess caused by mud-splattered pets.
By season’s end you can tell where everybody lives by their footgear. Those from the south part of the valley are back to regular shoes. Folks from Mazama are still in mud and snow boots, which look ridiculous in town but are necessary once you get past the Weeman bridge toward home.
To appreciate mud season you have to understand the theory of logical contrast. For example, a stubbed toe is better than a broken foot. Temps in the mid-40s and mud up to your ankles is better than a sub-zero day with ice on your windshield and snow up to your hips. It’s all in the way you look at it.
Mary Rea of Mazama is the author of the novel “Ladies Night Out.” Her blog is at maryreabooks.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org