Guest Editor Provides Tips for Outdoor Recreation

Safety Tips for Taking a Socially-Distant Adventure in Your Nearby Woods

By Jason Lewis

Image via Pexels

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the routines of millions of Americans upside down. One significant way it has done this is through governmental orders to stay at home. 

While abiding by social distancing guidelines is critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19, being quarantined indoors for months on end can raise significant physical, mental, and emotional health concerns. In short, people need to spend time outdoors. And besides the backyard, the nearby woods is the only option for most families across the country. This means recreational activities like hiking, camping, and mountain biking are a saving grace. If you’re new to one or all of these activities, consider this advice for staying safe and enjoying your time.

Hiking 

As with the other activities listed here, it’s important to have the right equipment when you go hiking. Be sure to bring plenty of water and food, the right clothes, a compass, and a map, and research any other items you might want to bring. 

Before you head out, research the area where you will be hiking, especially if you don’t know much about local poisonous plants, wild animals, and hunting zones. Also, try to schedule your hikes during the day, look at the weather forecast, and remember to stay together, especially if you have young children. Nothing can ruin a nice, refreshing hike like losing sight of your kids.

Camping

You will need many of the same essentials for camping as you would for hiking. However, there are some camping-specific items that can make your venture safer and more enjoyable. For example, a quality headlamp can allow you to see better at night and perform tasks with both hands. With headlamps, it’s important to find one that is waterproof, bright, and comfortable to wear. It’s also important to get a reliable tent, sleeping bags, first-aid kit, and cooler. 

If your family goes camping, be sure to stay hydrated and inform yourself of any poisonous plants and potentially dangerous animals. Keep your campsite clean so that it doesn’t attract unwanted guests (e.g., bears, raccoons, etc.), and never leave a fire burning without someone there to watch it. You’ll also want to confirm local rules and regulations as many areas restrict fires at 2500 feet and above. Moreover, if you plan on using a propane stove, be sure to follow all the general safety guidelines. For example, only run the propane when you are lighting the stove, and make sure you know how the ignition switch works.

Mountain Biking

Along with getting the right kind of bikes for each family member, you want to make sure everyone has the protection they need. Depending on the age of your kids, this may mean investing in helmets, elbow/knee pads, and other protective gear. Generally speaking, adults and kids alike should always wear a helmet.

If your kids are fairly new to riding bikes, wait until they have a firm grasp on the basic skills and knowledge required. And when you do decide to take them along, ride on any trails you’re considering taking them on beforehand so that you know the terrain. This will help you determine which trails are good for your children and which ones are too difficult.

These days, venturing into your nearby wooded areas is really the only option when it comes to vacation and leisure time away from home. Consider going hiking, camping, and/or mountain biking, and do your research to make sure you have all the gear you need and that you take all the necessary safety precautions. In no time, your entire family will be experiencing the wide array of benefits that come with spending time in the great outdoors.

Jason Lewis is a personal trainer, who specializes in helping senior citizens stay fit and healthy. He is also the primary caretaker of his mom after her surgery. He created StrongWell.org and enjoys curating fitness programs that cater to the needs of people over 65.

In Case You Missed It….

A press release from WDFW.

Published on Apr 27, 2020

OLYMPIA –The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission (Parks) announced today they will reopen state-managed lands on Tuesday, May 5, for local day-use only recreation.

The reopening will apply to state-managed parks, wildlife areas, recreation land, and boat launches. However, it may take several days for gates to be unlocked and sites to be serviced at remote areas due to limited staff capacity.

Some parks may not open immediately due to impacts on rural communities and the potential for crowding. State Parks is working with local communities and its partners to determine the best approach and timing to reopening these areas.

Visitor centers, camping, and other overnight accommodations on state-managed lands will remain closed until further notice.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) also plans to reopen their recreation lands on May 5 for day-use. [Note: as of May 13, camping remains closed. Check the link for specific regional openings & closures.]

State land managers recommend people come prepared and bring their own hand washing supplies, toilet paper, and personal protective equipment as some sites will have reduced or limited restroom facilities. People should also be prepared to change plans if their destination appears crowded or is not yet fully operational.  

If sites become overcrowded or other COVID-19 related public safety concerns develop, state agencies may close areas with limited notice to further protect public health and safety. Certain restrictions around specific activities may also apply. 

The public can find the latest information about WDFW and Parks operations at:

  

Guidelines to recreate responsibly during COVID-19 public health crisis

Before you go 

  • Check what’s open. While many state-managed land destinations are open for day-use, other local, tribal, and federal land may still be closed. 
  • Opt for day trips close to home. Overnight stays are not permitted.
  • Stay with immediate household members only. Recreation with those outside of your household creates new avenues for virus transmission.
  • Come prepared. Visitors may find reduced or limited restroom services as staff begin the process to reopen facilities at wildlife areas and water access sites.  You are advised to bring your own soap, water, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper, as well as a mask or bandana to cover your nose and mouth.
  • Enjoy the outdoors when healthy. If you have symptoms of fever, coughing, or shortness of breath, save your outdoor adventure for another day.  

When you get there 

  • Avoid crowds. Be prepared to go somewhere else or come back another time if your destination looks crowded. 
  • Practice physical distancing. Keep six feet between you and those outside your immediate household. Launch one boat at a time to give others enough space to launch safely. Leave at least one parking space between your vehicle and the vehicle next to you. Trailer your boat in the same way. 
  • Wash your hands often. Keep up on personal hygiene and bring your own water, soap, and hand sanitizer with you.  
  • Pack out what you pack in. Take any garbage with you, including disposable gloves and masks.