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Take a Hike: Social Distancing for Outdoorsy People
Social distancing is an essential public health strategy aimed at “flattening the curve” to slow the rate of infections and ensuring our health care system and providers don’t become inundated by a wave of new infections. But as our communities take dramatic steps to enforce social distancing, our collective anxiety and stress levels are going through the roof!
Hiking is a perfectly acceptable, socially responsible escape from the anxiety of the coronavirus pandemic gripping our country. According to Gregory A. Miller, PhD, President of the American Hiking Society: “Research shows that hiking has a positive impact on combating the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Being in nature is ingrained in our DNA, and we sometimes forget that." Follow these 5 simple, commonsense best-practices to ensure your safety and those of your neighbors on your next hike:
Avoid the Crowds
Parks, greenbelts, and nature centers are going to be busy with people trying to get some recreation in the coming weeks, but you should forego Visitor Centers, Exhibits, Group Pavilions, and Playgrounds.
Health officials are suggesting a 6-foot distance between yourself and others to curtail the spread of coronavirus. Give other hikers a wide berth.
Take the Trail Less Traveled
I spent Saturday afternoon at the Barton Creek Greenbelt in Austin and there were quite a few folks taking advantage of a beautiful afternoon out there. Rather than my usual 4-mile roundtrip route to Sculpture Falls, I took one of the side trails and saw maybe 10 people over the course of 2 hours.
Know Before You Go
If you’re going to be exploring some new country, spend a little time on the Googles and get yourself up to speed on your route. Print or download maps to your phone so you don’t have to spend time going over maps at the trailhead where people congregate. If your destination requires a day-pass or permit, buy online if possible to minimize person to person contact.
Practice Basic Safe Hiking
we certainly don’t want y’all getting lost or injured out on the trail and taxing our first responders more than they already are. So, wear good hiking shoes or boots, consider trekking poles on slippery trails or on trails with significant elevation gain/loss, go with a buddy or family member (coronavirus free preferably), practice good hydration, and again make sure you’re familiar with your route.
There you have it, 5 simple steps to ensure your next hike is socially responsible and safe for you and your fellow humans.