"Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn't one today." --- From the movie "Groundhog Day,"
For outdoor enthusiasts, summer is the season we look forward to the most. Those hot days and warm summer nights provide the ultimate elements for paddling, hiking, and camping trips. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, it's time to, "Live in the sunshine. Swim in the sea. Drink in the wild air."
Memorial Day weekend traditionally kicks off the official unofficial start of summer, but as the novel coronavirus know COVID-19 pandemic stretches into its fourth month of social distancing recommendations and restrictions, the once carefree season is certainly off to an unusual and precarious start.
“We’re ready for a change, we’re all ready to get out of this," Joe Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health told The Harvard Gazette, "But we don’t yet have the systems in place to manage this effectively. So we should expect that things will be very different this summer. I don’t think this is going to be anything like past summers.”
Without question, our traveling, camping, and beach-going agenda will have to be altered if we're going to decrease the risk of becoming infected with the COVID-19 virus and stop the spread of it to others.
But as we all know, going outside is good for us. Being in nature and the fresh air can help us relax and feel less stressed, which of course, is what most of us could use now. But with things as they are here are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind when heading out on this holiday weekend.
Whether on the water or the trail, the key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 is social distancing. Keep 6 feet apart from one other. If the water access or trails appear to be too crowded or you if you can't even find a parking spot for that matter it’s wise to move on or find another time to visit. It's also a good idea to stay in your own neighborhood. And of course, always wash your hands.
"First and foremost, be a considerate person, and act like you have the virus," writes, travel blogger Kristen Bor in her blog Bearfoot Theory, "This mindset should guide all of your choices moving forward." #RecreateResponsibly
Parks & Rec
Beware, across the country's popular national, state, and local parks are either still closed or slowly opening back up this weekend. Before visiting a park, please check the park's website to determine its operating status.
For the ones in the early phases of reopening the amenities may be limited. Entrance stations might not be staffed and while, visitor centers, some bathroom facilities, and group campsites will remain closed
And while many are celebrating the reopening of the parks, others are raising health concerns about large, possibly maskless, groups of out-of-state visitors arriving and potentially skirting social distancing guidelines.
“We checked the webcam at (Yellowstone National Park) Old Faithful at about 3.30pm yesterday,” Kristin Brengel, the senior vice-president of government affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association told the Guardian, “Not much physical distancing happening and not a single mask in sight.”
Sleeping Under the Stars
Your summer camping trips will vary by location this year as more than 30 states have closed campgrounds or delaying their openings to correspond with new guidelines of social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 according to The Dyrt website.
“We’ve been trying to figure out basically from the beginning how we could get our campgrounds open for Memorial Day because we know how important it is to our communities with that being the kickoff to the camping season,” Danelle Highfill, recreation manager for the Boise National Forest, told the Idaho Stateman.
For those looking for campsite amenities this holiday weekend you're likely out of luck as most public campgrounds across the country are temporarily closed.
“If you are a hearty wilderness camper, you are absolutely welcome to go out into a state forest, one mile away from a developed campground, and do dispersed camping,” Kim Pleticha, a spokesperson from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to the Duluth News Tribune.
First the good news. Young campers won't have to contend with horrible food, bug bites, and smelly tents this summer. And now the bad news. Parents will have to contend with their bored kids as summer camps from Maine to California have been canceled or shorten for the season.
"That phrase, "social distancing," is not really in a camp's vocabulary," Ron Hall, executive director of the nonprofit Maine Summer Camps, told CNN.
Online virtual camps, scavenger hunts, and Zoom campfires via computer screen will replace many summer camp programs. While some traditional camps will open with shortened sessions using such precautions as having children wear masks and regularly sanitizing the equipment.
It's not just kids stuff. Many adult instructional programs such as learning to whitewater kayak have been disrupted this summer. Dan Crandall at Current Adventures Kayaking School & Trips said, "Obviously it's gonna be a challenging summer season no matter how or when things do finally open up to allow us to go back to teaching kayaking and getting folks out on the water. We will need to get creative and proactive once things loosen up."
Whitewater outfitters are used to frothy rapid changes at least on the water. But waves of disruption caused the Covid-19 pandemic has sunk a portion of this season at an array of water rafting destinations.
Colorado River rafting has been trips canceled through June 13, leaving guides broached at the possibility of resuming rafting trips through the Grand Canyon. Plans will be revisited periodically to give companies and individuals time to prepare for trips.
|Courtesy of Scott Blankenfeld|
In California, outfitters are acting accordance with the directive issued by state officials and have suspended all operations through June 7 at the earliest. So far, hundreds of customers have already jumped out of their plans, canceling trips scheduled for this past spring.
Whitewater Excitement’s website said, "We want you to know, however, that we still plan on running rafting trips as soon as we can!"
Meanwhile, in West Virginia, it's "All Forward" for whitewater outfitters in the New River Gorge area, as they hit the rapids using new safety enhancements and options to enhance social distancing while on the river.
“The outfitters had worked together to come up with a plan that identified what they thought to be the best and safest practices” for reopening, Lisa Strader, director of Visit Southern West Virginia told the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Many of their recommendations were included in the governor’s guide to reopening whitewater rafting.
For more information see the River Management Guide.
Is the Water Safe?
Is the water safe? Well that's always a loaded question. But according to the Swim Guide website, "As of March 2020, there is not enough research to say for certain whether or not the virus that causes Covid-19 can be transmitted through water, through contact with feces that contain the virus, or through sewage. Research is ongoing though, so we expect clearer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers in the near future."
Mountain True's French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson agrees as he told WLOS-News 13, “It seems extremely unlikely that the Coronavirus could affect our waterways. It has been shown in some instances that it can go from humans into sewage and although its a low percentage and then it would have to go from sewage into our waterways in any kind of quantity that could get people sick.”
Meanwhile, always wear your PFD when out on the water. U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in four out of every five recreational boating fatalities in 2018 and that 84 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets. Think of it as wearing a COVID-19 mask. safeboatingcampaign.com
Clearly, this will not be a normal summer. We need to agree that for all us to enjoy summertime fun, it will require each of us to do our part to keep everyone safe.
“Everyone wants to know when this will end,” Devi Sridhar, a public-health expert at the University of Edinburgh told Atlantic Monthy. “That’s not the right question. The right question is: How do we continue?”