Did I miss the memo? The one that said that the Covid-19 Pandemic is over. Because by the way many of our trails and parks looked this past weekend—and how so many people were behaving in public—you’d swear that we just subdued that nasty little virus and there was nothing more to be concerned about.
In many ways I am not surprised, but I am saddened and disheartened nonetheless. Yes, I know Quarantine fatigue has set in and an 80-degree sunny weekend is a tempting offer to get out and let loose. But as I write this, more than 83,000 Americans (probably more) have died of this nasty virus that we have no cure nor vaccine for. And as I write this, the number of positive cases continues to go up throughout much of the country and here in Washington. The number of younger people getting seriously ill from and dying from this insidious menace is also rising.
But you’d never know it if you passed by the Mailbox Peak Trailhead and counted an astonishing close to 200 cars lined up—or the fiasco that resembled a jamboree at Little Mashel Falls—or many of the other notoriously crowded trails and locations—places that should be the last place anyone would want to be during a pandemic of a virus that has no cure and can kill you.
And you’d never know the virus was still here by the amount of nonrelated groups of people clustered together on the trail and parks; and the blatant disregard that many folks had to keeping a safe 6 foot distance from others while encountering them on the trail; and the refusal by many to wear a mask in busy public places. And while there has been much written lately about the lower risks of catching the virus in opens spaces—close contact to an infected individual is still the prime way this contagion works.
Yes, exercise and getting outside is important to our mental health. But we can’t protect our mental health by compromising our physical health and the health of our fellow citizens. It won’t be long before various governing agencies will begin opening up more public places and trails. And it won’t be long before melting snow allows us to move farther into the backcountry and away from each other. But until that happens, it is reckless and selfish to ignore public health guidelines by contributing to crowding and ignoring social distancing and donning a mask when in close contact with others. And by acting selfish and entitled to keep doing what we have always done will most assuredly mean that our Covid-19 positive cases will continue to rise, more people will die, and our economic recovery and return to a somewhat normal life will take even longer.
I do not feel that my rights are being violated because I cannot access a certain trail at this moment—or that I have to wear a mask in certain situations. I feel I am being asked to be responsible, be selfless, and to work collectively as a nation to help thwart this virus until we get a vaccine to vanquish it. Are some of these measures inconvenient? Yes. Would I like to be able to travel freely again? Yes. But sometimes we need to look beyond ourselves and do what is right for the greater good of our society. Unfortunately to many this has been lost, was never learned—or is simply resented.
I marveled at the tales my grandparents used to tell me about how they lived through the Great Depression and World War II. There were many “We” moments. Most people felt a sense of duty to their country and their countrymen and women and eagerly joined movements to overcome these largescale threats to the nation. We need to think that way again. People rationed items and volunteered service for years during the War. They readily participated in programs to defeat the enemy. They delayed gratification knowing that sacrifice was in order if life was to resume on a normal pace again someday.
We are being asked to avoid crowded places, socially distance, and wear masks when around others—hardly rough sacrifices and certainly not a violation of our rights. We have a moral obligation to keep each other healthy and to get all of us through this Pandemic. And we will if we act together for the greater good.
Wars, disasters, crises, and pandemics bring out the best and worst of us and really show the world what we are made of. I have been given much hope too in seeing so much love, support and unselfish behaviors from my fellow citizens as well. We need to support each other and be positive forces and we will get through this. I know that most of you are already there and I thank you. We will have unfettered access to roam our hills again someday. But in the meanwhile let’s do the right and noble thing and stay away from crowded trails and parks—keep a safe distance from each other—and respect each other knowing that many of our fellow citizens are going through tough times right now full of fear, dread and despair. Showing that we care about them can make a huge difference in helping them and our country move forward and get through these challenging times.
Please check out any of my books for plenty of detailed information on trails less traveled. I thank you too for buying my books and supporting my work so that I can continue bringing you up-to-date, accurate and detailed hiking information. Happy Hiking!