Ten Tips For Hiking Responsibly in the Days of COVID-19
Exercising Safety in Your Pursuit of Fresh Air
Nashville is in ‘shelter in place’ mode, and the mayor has advised us that we are to stay home in isolation. We can leave for ‘essential trips’ such as grocery store runs, but all non-essential businesses are closed. The mayor stated we can also leave for exercise – to walk around the block, let out our pets, and go on hikes. (Please note: some states and regions have begun closing local and state parks, so always check your area websites to stay up to date).
For my family, that little freedom has meant all the difference in the world. Getting out together in nature is one of our favorite activities as a family, though it’s meant certain important changes and extra preparation, for sure.
I’ve had a few people ask me how we are managing hiking and getting out in nature in these new and changing times. So, here are some tips to hike responsibly in the days of social isolation that will protect you as well as prevent the spread of COVID-19. I hope they help you and your family engage with nature in meaningful ways, even now, as it is likely more important than ever.
- Where to Go: Find obscure trails without crowds, and trails where you aren’t forced on narrow pathways so you can practice social distancing. This may take a bit of planning time, but leverage AllTrails to explore trails you have never heard of in your area. The comments generally give you a fairly accurate sense of crowds or lack thereof. Keep in mind, it’s best to stay relatively close to home since you can’t use local amenities like visitor centers, stores, public bathrooms, or even restaurants (except for the purpose of drive-through and takeout).
- Pumping Gas: Heading on a hike likely means driving. Bring baby wipes to grip the gas pump. Better yet, bring rubber surgical gloves if you have them.
- Food and Liquid Preparation: We’ve been bringing more snacks and water than we usually do since we’d like to avoid public places. We are missing our post-hike ice creams, but we’re doing what we can to social distance, so we bring treats with us.
- Stay Six Feet Away: We’ve been able to find less populated trails, so it’s been easy to keep six feet away. We’ve noticed others have stopped and stepped aside to ensure there is enough space to pass. We’ve tried to do the same.
- Keep Your Hands to Yourself: My family and I avoid handrails on steps and stairs as well as benches. I don’t want to ‘scar’ or scare my kids with all of this, so we’ve made it into a bit of a game. “Can you go up the stairs without touching the rail?" At other times I make sure I'm prepared to reach for their hand before they are compelled to use the rail.
- Hand Sanitizer: It’s always a good idea, but now more than ever, and for once, nobody will think you are nuts for walking around with a container of Lysol in tow.
- Pets: If your dogs, like mine, tend to run up to others to sniff or ask for petting, it’s best to leave them on-leash or at home. I’ve read that others petting your dogs can transmit germs, thus COVID-19.
- Bathrooms: With most bathrooms closed out of necessity for social distancing, it’s best to be prepared, and that means *really* prepared! My kids and I have had to use creative spaces for 'bathrooms.' Bring a blanket to shield the view if you are worried you won’t be able to find privacy off the side of the road for children. Bring toilet paper, wipes and doggie bags. I’ve had to use doggie poop bags and not just for my dogs. We’ll leave it at that.
- Pictures: It goes without saying, but the days of asking strangers to take your photo are on pause for now. An alternative: ask someone to take a photo of you with their own phone and then get them to AirDrop or text it to your number.
- Parking Lot Closures: In many regions the parking lots are closed to public use to discourage large crowds, but the trails are still open to individuals and families. Generally, street parking in the area will enable you access to the trails.
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We welcome you to check out our blog for more inspiration from a list of Online Educational Tools, join as we Run For Fun With Our Kids or helpful tips on 5 Tips To Nurture Your Partnership in light of social distancing.