The Weekend My World Forever Changed

It was a beautiful March day—a much welcomed break after weeks of incessant rain and a perpetual shroud of grey. My family and I needed to get out for a little hiking getaway. It was March 15th, and as the seriousness of the Covid-19 Pandemic began to register in the minds of most Americans, it was being met with an overwhelming mix of fear and anxiety. We had not yet been ordered to Stay at Home. But we saw the handwriting on the wall. We made the painful decision to cancel our much anticipated vacation to Joshua Tree National Park scheduled to begin on the 24th. It sucked and we held hope for as long as we could, but the virus was now calling the shots.

So we decided a nearby two day getaway to beat the blues, savor the sun and enjoy the outdoors was in order. Well attuned to how contagious this new menace is, the last thing we were going to do was head to a crowded destination. Not a problem as I generally avoid crowded trails even during the best of times. We headed to Harstine Island State Park and were elated to find on this sunny Sunday, just two other vehicles in the parking lot. We spent a couple of hours hiking the park’s wooded uplands trails first—and allowing for the tide to go out. Then we hit the beach and made the one mile glorious beach hike to the spit to McMicken Island. We waited and watched the waters recede—like as if Moses was ahead parting the way for us—then we made the trek across the narrow strip of sand to our promised land. We had a whole (albeit small) island for ourselves—a perfect place to be removed from the chaos of the world.

We hiked the nature trail on the island and then explored its rocky coast—all to ourselves in a surrealistic setting of solace against a parallel world of pandemonium. We hiked back along the shore enjoying evening light dance on towering firs and wind generated waves. Then we headed to our accommodations. As we pulled into our hotel we were instantly struck by the eerie emptiness of it. Normally I welcome solitude, but seeing a four story hotel with only 4 cars parked out front was not comforting. It was ominous. We slept well and enjoyed talking to the staff the next morning—they were all cheery and helpful—but in the back of my mind I couldn’t help think they would soon be losing their jobs. The governor had just announced that all restaurants would be closed. More restrictions were certainly on the way—and soon. I knew there would be no more traveling for us for a while—something that I have grown so accustomed to—something that I love—something woven into my fabric—the freedom to move—and explore unencumbered. And I knew the life we were abruptly transitioning into wouldn’t be short-lived.

After checking out we got in line for the ferry to Anderson Island to spend the day hiking beaches and trails on that wonderful little South Sound Island. The mood at the ferry terminal was sedate. A person lined up in front of me however was visibly angry. He was exclaiming to a person leaning into his truck that he was being put out of work because of the governor’s new orders. I felt for him, for one of the things I fear as much as heinous diseases and death is economic despair.

We enjoyed a wonderful day on the island walking empty beaches and trails. Embracing some dark humor, my son and I played rounds of Corona tag. But mostly I was wishing the day would never end—as our much celebrated way of life would end with it. I was trying to prolong the day for as long as I could. The drive back home was a combination of utter amazement as I cruised through Tacoma and Seattle slightly above the speed limit on roads that I have never seen so empty—even on Christmas morning. And as my wife finally picked up her phone to read the news to me—and the radio was tuned to special reports—my anxiety rose through the Stratosphere and a heavy blanket of dread, despair, and fear enveloped me. Of course my five year old son was oblivious to all of this and we made sure to keep him protected from the disorder that the world had been thrust into. We had dinner in a parking lot after going through a drive thru (something I never used when things were normal) because restaurants were now all closed. My son was having the time of his life sitting in the back seat eating McNuggets; while I was dreading the future.

That weekend was both beautiful and ominous and now forever indelibly etched into my mind as the weekend our world radically changed—forever. I have since managed (somewhat) my anxiety and stress and go through manic bouts of feeling hopeful quickly doused with doses of fear and dread. But the hardest thing for me—and I imagine for most—is this feeling of unknown. So many unknowns about the impact and duration of this Pandemic. But we must move forward and move on and that can be difficult. Life will go on for most of us and we need to adapt to the new reality of living during Covid-19. I fear this dreaded virus isn’t going away anytime soon. It will continue to cast its shadow on nearly every aspect of our lives. Over the next several weeks I will being writing posts on what this all means for those of us who love to walk, run, and hike—and being outdoors—and how we will need to adjust to a very different world—one that’ll require some serious behavior modifications. Stick with me. We’ll get through it all—and I am convinced (I have to be) that we’ll come out of this better than before. And as always I welcome your thoughtful responses and observations and perspectives. And thanks for all of your support over the years.

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