Maple sugaring time is when sap "runs" in Sugar Maple trees (Acer saccharum) and can be tapped off by hanging a bucket from a tube stuck in the tree. It takes lots and lots of watery sap to make a little pure maple syrup (40 times as much sap is boiled down to one part syrup). For more information, check this article, and this one is all about sugar maples.a highway sign announcing maple sugar being tapped ahead

I have never gone downhill skiing, although I lived near Boston for most of my life. I did attempt cross-country skiing one weekend in high school...it turned out that cross-country skiing wasn't part of my skill set. But the White Mountains, the Adirondacks, the Catskills and the Green Mountains of New England and New York (although they are just humps compared with the Alps or the Rockies) offer great downhill skiing, for those so inclined.people skiing with a spectacular view of the Green Mountains

New England is justifiably famous for its fall foliage. Leaves show yellow and red through gold, bronze, and a thousand shades of orange, and leaf-peeping gets more popular every year. This picture of a covered bridge shows beautiful fall views.covered bridge with fall hills in background

From about maple-sugaring time (when daytime temperatures first venture above freezing) until after the end of May is known as Mud Season in parts of New England and New York. These states have high-altitude regions that are very similar to that in the Alps or the low parts of the tundra. In Vermont and other similar New England states, Mud Season is typically when the underlying layers of tundra (yes, tundra) are still frozen with winter's deep freeze, and the topmost layer thaws with the warming days, to create a phenomenal layer of sucking MUD. In New York, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont, hiking or even walking on muddy trails during Mud Season damage can devastate the fragile ecosystem in place in the sub-artic or alpine tundra.

Yet Yankees are proud of their ability to survive Mud Season with aplomb. They learn to hike responsibly with Green Mountain Club. In an area with a Mud Season, the ground freezes deeply in winter and is covered by snow and ice. These circumstances are normal, expected and understandable. Yet when the air warms up enough to melt the surface layers of snow and ice, a huge volume of water is unable to percolate down through the deeply frozen, icy soil. The melted ice and snow, unable to reach its ground water level, pools above the frozen layer and turns anything there—gravel, dirt, mulch, sawdust—into mud.

The frozen layer stays solid, since thawing occurs from the top downward. You can drive to work early in the morning, when the ground is still hard and rutted, and return home in the late afternoon when the hard rutted roads have turned to oceans of mud. You may never make it to your front door! Some people carry chains in their cars in case they need to be towed.

If I seem to be stressing particularly on the Green Mountain State, the State of Vermont, it is because Vermont has more than half of its roads unpaved, and that's not including long, narrow unpaved driveways through the woods. More than one person has sued for the right to have their road stay unpaved. In Vermont, if you drive erratically on an unpaved road, it is not legal for you to get a ticket on those grounds alone, says the Vermont Supreme Court. In other words, during Mud Season, you may drive as erratically as necessary.

This is of course a huge problem for cars and other motorized vehicles. One of these motorized vehicles happens to be my power wheelchair, which cannot cope with the layers of non-frozen glop on top of solid glop. Luckily, my wheelchair is only just over 400 pounds and my stalwart husband can almost always rescue me when I become mired in layers of muck (which then get tracked though the house).

Of course, I have the same problem with sand, pebbles, gravel, lawn, pine needles, carpet—in fact just about any outdoor surface that you use to make your outdoors more attractive makes it more difficult for me. And my town has an ordinance about how much of your yard you are allowed to pave. I just have to survive Mud Season somehow!Welcome to Vermont