8 Ways to Get Outside This Weekend
Because We Can All Use a Dose of Nature Right Now
During the days of uncertainty ahead, we’re doubling down on our mission to share stories about how you can keep the spirit of adventure going safely, from roundups of our favorite recent outdoor stories, recipes, and more, to ways our community is finding the backcountry in their backyard.
Before venturing outdoors, check the most recent official advice in your area to make sure that the trail or public lands you hope to visit are still open and not discouraging visitors. Also be sure to read the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO).
With the world currently on pause, we’re encouraged to practice social distancing. As it turns out, that’s something we at Backcountry are already pretty good at. We take the idea of “getting out” a little differently than most. Distancing ourselves from urban sprawl and crowds is what the backcountry represents to us.
Getting outside may also be the easiest way to remedy some of the symptoms that come with isolation. But keep in mind, precautions must still be taken while in the backcountry. While attempting any of the activities below, be conscious of these simple rules:
- Stay at least six feet away from others—if you show up to a crowded trailhead parking lot, for example, it’s time to turn back.
- Refrain from touching your face.
- Bring hand sanitizer with you on your outdoor adventures.
- Keep it local. This is not the time to travel far from home, necessitating stops at grocery stores and gas stations.
- While we love carpooling and tailgating, both of these activities are ill-advised right now. Get outside alone or with your household, then go back in.
- Don’t go big. Emergency personnel and the healthcare system have too much going on to help you with your newly torn ACL or sprained ankle. Adventure well within your limits, keep mileage short, and be prepared.
- Above all, stay home if you’re feeling sick, or believe to have been exposed to someone who is.
Now, here are eight ways we’ve been getting our nature fix while doing our part to “flatten the curve.”
1. Hit the Trails
What better way to practice social distancing than getting some fresh air, exercise, and Vitamin D on a hike? Find a day hike or overnight trail you’ve been meaning to check out. With a likely surge of fellow distancers also looking to get their hike on, it’s more important than ever to practice Leave No Trace principles to reduce your environmental impact on the outdoors. Also remember to keep your distance from anyone you encounter on the trail, and head back home if you find the trail busy.
The thought of hiding away from civilization entirely may have crossed your mind, and while living off the grid may be tempting, we don’t recommend it right now. COVID-19 can incubate, symptom-free, for up to two weeks. If you were to leave, and head deep into the backcountry, you could develop symptoms and need medical intervention. So get out, but stay close to home.
2. Explore Less Popular Parks
Spring in southern Utah (and many other warm areas) is peak season for many popular national parks. Zion, Big Bend, and other desert national parks experience the best weather of the year right now. So, with the National Parks Service waiving entrance fees, is this the best time ever to tick off those bucket list hikes in the desert? Think again! Facilities remain closed and staff is practicing social distancing, too.
Keep Angel’s Landing unchecked for next year, and instead visit a park (or a section of a park) that will draw less of a crowd. In some places, the National Parks Service is making the decision for you. Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the Washington Monument have already closed. Other national parks will update their status individually.
In addition to less popular national parks, consider checking out your nearest state park (if it’s still open and not crowded), or visiting a national forest or wilderness area instead.
3. Run It Off
With the chaos of the past few days, maybe you’ve wished you could just run away from it all. That’s actually not the worst idea … just don’t go too far! In the same vein of hiking, running, jogging, and walking remain strong and safe options to get the blood flowing. If you can, aim for less popular and nearby areas.
While running, you’re more likely to “bump” into someone than you are hiking. Follow the same hiking rules in social distancing and try to be more aware of others on the same trail or path as yourself so you can step aside to avoid any close encounters.
4. Two Wheels Are Better Than Four
Instead of getting in your car to get out of the house, hop on the bike. But before you call your buddies and pedal in a peloton, pump the breaks. Groups are advised against, so enjoy the ride at your own pace or with a healthy partner or two.
Need more info on biking right now? Whether you’re seeking local trails or just the security of an indoor trainer, check out more tips from our friends over at Competitive Cyclist.
5. Take Your Social Distancing to a New Level—Literally
Climbing is a tricky subject during this new normal. With most climbing gyms closed, you could try checking out the nearest boulder field if the weather’s cooperating, but only if it’s close to home and free of other people—in other words, stick to your secret spots.
Before you load up your gear, also check to make sure the crag or bouldering area you plan to visit is still open—some climbing areas have begun closing or discouraging visitors as a result of dangerous crowding. If the climbing areas near you are closed, consider getting creative with the hangboard or “quarantraining” in your kitchen or living room!
And if you do find a good, quiet outdoor climbing spot to check out, bring that hand sanitizer. The coronavirus can remain on some hard surfaces for up to 72 hours—disinfect your hands after each problem, especially if there are others out there on the rock.
6. Bail Out
Just you, some brews, and a fly rod at the bank of the stream fishing the fresh ice-off—that’s what we call social distancing. While it may not be as intense as biking, running, or climbing, fishing is the perfect relaxing outdoor activity right now. And while the grocery stores may be running low, the river is teeming with winter-hungry hogs. If you’re looking for some fun (and dinner), dust off the reel and net your first trout of the season.
7. If There’s Still Snow Out There, Ski It
The resorts may have closed for the season, but many of us still have snow in our backcountry. In fact, spring touring is right on schedule. But hitting the backcountry is one activity we don’t recommend doing solo. Travel with a trusted and healthy partner, and maintain your six feet of distance between one another.
If you do decide to take a stroll on the skintrack, make sure you also have your avy rescue gear and knowledge. Before you go, check the forecast from your local avalanche center, and don’t expect to rely on search & rescue and paramedics for support right now—don’t venture far and play it very, very safe.
If you’re hoping to skin up at a now-closed resort, be sure to check that it’s open to uphill touring. Also, keep in mind that there are no ski patrollers to control for avalanches right now. As a result, ski all terrain right now like you would backcountry terrain, with avalanche rescue equipment and knowledge.
8. Inside Out
If you don’t have mountains next door or trails nearby, make the most out of what you do have. Bring a book out on your balcony or porch and read in the breeze, or do some painting in the backyard beneath the leaves. Take your favorite hobby outside and enjoy the sun—unless you’re in the early stages of learning the trumpet … maybe keep that one inside.
About the Author:
Alex Moliski is a writer at Backcountry. When he’s not typing or social distancing, he’s exploring the country, climbing, or backpacking somewhere remote. See more of his stories on Instagram @alexmoliski