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Social Distancing on Public Trails

COVID-19: Social Distancing on Public Trails

COVID-19: Social Distancing on Public Trails

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Sarah Guillermo, a cardiac registered nurse and avid hiker. 

Nurse here: Can we please collectively check our vibe for a second?

The collective panic is just as contagious as COVID-19. But you can choose reason over panic. We’re on the eve where we can still turn a corner and prevent a tragic case of “I told you to keep your social distance.”

I 100% appreciate everyone that’s asking how to responsibly hike in a pandemic. I understand the need to get outside for physical and mental health.

There’s no easy answer for this, because policies change with each passing day & depend on your county. Respect trail closures as you would without a pandemic. Beaches and parks seem to remain open, but only recreate with people in your IMMEDIATE HOUSEHOLD. As the numbers of positive patients increase, expect tighter lockdowns and heed them. In the coming days, a hike may mean just a walk through your neighborhood.

General rule of thumb: maintain at least 6 feet distance from anyone not from your household. Imagine everyone is in a giant inflatable bubble, and if yours can’t get through an area without bumping into someone else’s, pick somewhere else to exercise. Many of us are 5am assholes here – get an alpine start and watch the sunrise somewhere.

Remember your 10 essentials? Yeah, they look a little different now. Always carry with you a “decon kit” – mini hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, a Ziploc to carry dirty items. Be mindful of every point of contact (e.g. exchanging currency) with someone outside of your household as a potential for exposure & clean up accordingly. Clean a picnic area or pull-up bars before you use them.

You may not feel symptomatic, and neither the other person you come in contact with. However, someone that is early in their infection can unknowingly shed virus onto surfaces. This is something you might bring home with you and infect old, young, immunocompromised, pregnant, or with pre-existing conditions (Read: everyone you love).

Now is not the time for peak bagging, extreme mountaineering, or heroics. Stick to activities that you know won’t put you in a position to tie up SAR or EMS services. If you ARE injured, you’ll be brought to a hospital and exposure to coronavirus is almost certain there.

I know the surge of patients will start saturating our emergency rooms in the coming days. California’s hospital beds may be maxed out as early as this week. We may have a fighting chance to avoid outcomes like Italy if people are responsible about leaving the house.

You’re armed with knowledge. This is not a drill. Don’t take my word for it, read science-backed sources. Visit the CDC & WHO pages.

Thank you for reading this, please give me a fighting chance to get through this crisis. These changes are not forever, but will go on longer the longer it takes for people to comply.

I miss my hiking community dearly and will never take a hike with you for granted again. Love you all, stay well & BE KIND TO EACH OTHER! ?

– Sarah Guillermo


Editor’s note: Whether it’s advisable to hike is likely to change for a while (from maybe, to certainly not, to maybe again someday). Check out our post on Hiking During the COVID-19 Pandemic, which will be updated regularly. 


Infographic: NRPA

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