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How To Get Outside Responsibly During COVID-19

Can we still go hiking? **UPDATED MARCH 30TH** On Thursday evening, March 19th a Stay At Home order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 went into effect for all of California. Many people were confused at what the order meant for getting outside and going hiking. We spoke to one of our state legislators the next morning for the specifics about how we should and could still get outside, while also staying at home. In this blog is everything you need to know about what it means to ‘Stay At Home’ and how you can still get outside, responsibly.

Here are some updates we wanted to add as more states, cities, and counties are adding Stay At Home orders. Many trails, parks, and campgrounds are now closed. Know before you go. If you're going outside, get outside where you live, in your immediate area. This means staying at home, close to home. We do not recommend going to popular trailheads or parks. If you are going to a local trailhead or park that is open, do consider going during the off hours. Assume that on a Saturday afternoon, the trails will be crowded, and it will be difficult to practice social distancing guidelines. Know what trails and parks are open near you. You can look up current status and closures for county and city parks by visiting their websites and also their Facebook pages. For example, here is the website for OC Parks, for Orange County, in Southern California. Please stay informed on what your Stay At Home order means via your local health and government officials. We suggest following the social media pages of your City Council, House Reps, Governors, and Mayors. To find out who your local legislators are, visit HERE. Please also see additional guidance from Leave No Trace Center For Outdoor Ethics HERE.

The Stay At Home order for here in California says that we should stay at home, except for essential purposes. The order also encourages us to 'take a walk, take a hike' which has become confusing for many of us who may want to go to the mountains, go to the snow, and go to places that may not necessarily be 'home' for us. If you’re going for a walk or for a hike, stay local. Going for a walk or a hike right now does not mean that you should be getting in your car and driving to a trailhead that is not in your neighborhood, town or immediate area. It means to stay home, stay close to home.

From the Leave No Trace Center Of Outdoor Ethics, "While it can be disappointing, the best thing to do might be to stay home, especially if you are sick. Even if you are not symptomatic, staying home is still a good idea. Park rangers, volunteers, and locals in the often small and rural gateway communities near our favorite outdoor spaces need to be kept safe and healthy too. That’s not to say you need to be stuck indoors though unless it is mandated. Now is the time to enjoy your local trails, open spaces, and parks. Rather than travel to big name outdoor areas, see what is available in your own backyard and neighborhood."

The Stay At Home order for California is indeed confusing. Almost immediately as it was being announced we had a thread going in our SoCal Facebook group asking, "can we still go hiking..." To help clarify this, we put a call into one of our state legislators here in California. While it is suggested to go outside, take a walk, take a hike, it is suggested in the title of the order that we stay home. If you're getting outside per the Stay At Home Order, it means to walk from your home or near your home. Now is not the time to be visiting mountain towns, the Parks, rural communities or Tribal Parks. Please note that many National Parks, State Parks, and Tribal Parks are either closed or actively closing. If you are looking to explore, get outside, and go hiking, it is best to Stay At Home, or close to home. A suggestion that we got was to draw a 10 mile radius around where you live and see what trails there are. Think there is nothing worth doing where you live? I bet you that you're wrong. You can download the AllTrails app and have it locate where you live and if there are trails around you, you will see them. You can save them to your phone, download the maps, and get out there! Whether it's now or another time when it's safer to go outside. Remember that if you are headed out to either hike solo and/or maintain a distance of 6 ft with your hiking partner and also other hikers who are also using the trails.

If you are going out, know where you’re going and what resources are available. Many of our National Parks, city and county parks are also closing. Be sure to pack out what you pack in and also hike well within your abilities. From the Leave No Trace Center Of Outdoor Ethics, “Do your best to research before you leave home, but also be prepared for things to change quickly. Take necessary precautions like bringing extra food and water, learning how to go to the bathroom outdoors, and being ready to pack all your trash out with you. Also keep in mind that as our healthcare system becomes more overwhelmed, it’s important to reduce potential accidents that would add to the stress on first responders and medical professionals. As much as possible, stick to activities and areas that are within your regular routine and take it easy.”

While we’re all thinking of ways to get outside responsibly, it is also appropriate and necessary to consider staying at home. Literally. Many of our local trails and outside areas are getting crowded, and many of those using these spaces are not following guidelines as put forth by city, state, and local officials. From Outdoor Advocacy, “Please stay at home… recreation can wait.” If you are staying indoors, here are few ideas of ways to bring the outdoors in!

  • Plant an herb garden.

  • Pitch your tent in your living room and hang some twinkly lights.

  • Put together a puzzle that features a landscape that you’ve always wanted to visit.

  • Get a watercolor set and paint some flowers or mountains.

  • Ask Alexa to play nature sounds or find tracks of falling rain and birds chirping on Spotify.

  • Now is also a great time to learn how to read maps and how to use a compass.

  • Plan a backpacking trip.

The possibilities to bring the outdoors in are endless! And also, if you’re like me, it is a great time to clean your gear closets and donate things that you may have outgrown or aren’t using. We suggest donating to the Indigenous Women Hike gear library in Bishop. Goods can be mailed there, click HERE for where to send.

Now is the time to appreciate the little things. It is also a time to be there for each other. If you’re looking for ways to connect both on the trail and off the trail, be sure to join one of our Facebook groups. And lastly, from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, “Now is the time to enjoy your local trails, open spaces, and parks… see what is available in your own backyard and neighborhood.” If you are getting outside be sure to be following all of the health guidelines when doing so, wash your hands before and after, carry hand sanitizer, be mindful of what surfaces you may come into contact with and practice social distancing by maintaining a 6 ft distance between you and fellow hikers and walkers.


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