Early last week the temperature warmed, the sky opened and it began to rain. It rarely let up as the snow adjacent to the roadways turned brown and then melted altogether to help form puddles the size of small ponds. Newcomers to the Flathead, welcome to mud season. And get used to it because it can last for months.
This year, it arrived as the final holiday lights were taken down in Whitefish, which stays festive a little longer than most to celebrate Winter Carnival. It also uses the decorations to trick ski vacationers into thinking it’s nicer outside than it actually is.
Instead of wreaths on the skyline, the clouds hang low and blanket the valley in a collective claustrophobia as we pine for sunny days but know they will be few and far between. The dull colors of late winter and early spring begin to blend together. Everything looks dirty.
The melted snow exposes the previously hidden trash on the side of our major thoroughfares, especially along U.S. 93 where vehicles travel to and from the county landfill and forget to secure their garbage. Nothing ushers in the season of new beginnings like strewn garbage bags on the shoulder of the highway.
The snow at the area resorts also transforms from soft powder to slushy groomers and lots of skiers and boarders get injured this time of year. The snow reports include quips like this: “We have low visibility and snowfall on the upper mountain this morning, and moderate visibility and light rain in the village. It’s gonna be a hearty day up here, and all you can do is laugh!” You better wear a raincoat.
The rivers will soon begin running high again and as brown as the leftover snow. Who knows? There may be flooding with all this rain. Be sure to check your crawlspace. Chances are you’ll need to buy a sump pump because of our low water tables.
Oh, and please be careful on the roads. Along with the giant puddles there are equally giant craters in the asphalt. The long winter does a number on our transportation grid, which continues to crumble until “construction season” arrives and we wait impatiently in long lines of traffic.
This time of year the tourism begins to wane and some restaurants close for few weeks to give their employees time off and deep clean their kitchens. A lot of people travel to warmer temperatures with their families. And a few, those who perhaps didn’t see the current weather patterns on the postcards, social media feeds and marketing campaigns that brought them here, never come back.
They may be heading to Bozeman or Boulder. I’ve heard the east side of the Continental Divide gets a lot more sun than we do. There are many more activities, too. It’s more cosmopolitan in places like Big Sky and closely resembles that popular show you may have heard of called “Yellowstone.” Just saying.
Sure, our mud season cleans out the valley a bit. But remember the snow will likely return in June. Anyway …
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