2020 – This Hiker’s Tug of War #pandemic #covid19

In this tug of war, it’s a battle of definitions, guidelines, ethics, morals, emotional and physical health. The answers don’t come easy for me nor my friends when it comes to hiking.

I tend to be a rule follower, but as the weeks have progressed I’ve struggled to find the balance between the intent and applicability of the Stay Home Order, especially regarding non-essential travel. I don’t want to be part of the RDATM (Rules Don’t Apply to Me) crowd but I also don’t want to be a social responsibility martyr. So after witnessing the number of vehicles on the roads and people visiting areas outside their neighborhoods, I decided I needed some thinking time.

Hours away from the news and social media provided much needed clarity and rejuvenation.

I came to the following conclusions.

  1. Rules that apply to others don’t necessarily apply to me.
    • I don’t live in a city or congested area.
    • I don’t live in, nor plan to visit, a COVID-19 hotspot.
  2. There are three reasons for the order.
    • Minimize spread of the virus.
    • Minimize exposure to the virus.
    • Minimize use of medical and emergency resources.
  3. I’m not spreading the virus as I’m avoiding exposure.
    • I don’t socialize unless at least 6+ feet separate, although I had one accidental slip-up with the postman.
    • I don’t shop as I’m using delivery service.
    • I don’t exercise on high-use trails.
    • I don’t go to public places, except to the local gas station where I take necessary precautions.
  4. I’m willing to take on a little risk of potentially needing life-saving resources, which admittedly means possibly exposing first responders unnecessarily.
    • While neighborhood walking has nearly zero risk, there’s always the possibility of a dog bite.
    • Bike riding, running, and paddleboarding are all my next choices and they too are fairly low risk of accident or injury but come with higher risk of social distancing issues.
    • Hiking within a 10-mile radius includes risk of rattlesnake bites, biker/hiker collisions and poison oak encounters, as well as car accident.
    • Hiking and backpacking on maintained trails within my extended backyard is higher risk than neighborhood walking.
      • Yes, I could have a car accident or have a mechanical issue
      • Yes, I could get injured
  5. What is my mental, physical and emotional health worth?
    • Staying home locked in my tiny house most likely means gaining weight and getting depressed.
    • Albeit it a bit selfish, choosing hiking and backpacking means extreme joy, happiness and overall wellness.

These are my choices. I anticipate they will continue to evolve. I respect everyone’s unique perspective. The one thing I won’t be doing is taunting others in situations different than mine by sharing photos and stories. I continue to find myself envious, jealous, judgmental and angry when friends post about their adventures. This is partially the impetus behind my personal tug of war and subsequently this post.

As Andrew Skurka said, “each of us need to independently consider the risk and our risk tolerance.” I’d rather take a few risks and live life selfishly than spend my time as a quarantined martyr. Call me a rebel. I’ll take this bear over COVID-19!

8 thoughts on “2020 – This Hiker’s Tug of War #pandemic #covid19

  1. Hi Jan, Thank you for articulating what I too am going through. I agree with your logical analysis. One scenario you didn’t cover is the one where a hiker becomes injured. As you experienced a while back, responders are put in situations they are not able to manage. So we can endanger others by heading out for a hike. This is one rationale for closing trails, I think. How do we work around this? Thanks for your great posts! Mike T.

    • I appreciate your comments and thoughts. I was including my thoughts about SAR in the emergency resources. I’ll see if I can edit that to clarify. There really isn’t a work around except to try to be as responsible as possible and if you need assistance plan to wear face covering. It’s a risk, and although selfish, I’ve rationalized that with so many others taking much greater risks, it’s okay to take a few myself. I’d have a lot of regrets if I got injured but at the same time I really can’t imagine staying in my cave for additional weeks and months. My personal timeclock is ticking.

  2. Hey Jan, I’m a little late on this post, but I too had thoughts to share. First, it seems the only dilemma regarding going for a hike/backpack trip is a potential emergency situation. And because this actually happened to you on a hike, it is perfectly understandable you would be flow charting your way through the issue! šŸ™‚ Keep in mind that emergencies can happen on your way to the grocery store (car accident), or even at home (falling in the shower); accidents happen. Considering your personal safety behavior on the trails, it would be an “act of god” that would create an emergency situation and frankly, one can not control “acts of god”. Thus the conundrum, trying to control things you have no control over.
    You can avoid posting images from your outings (promoting envy in others) and maintain social distance by going somewhere remote, BUT, no matter where you go, there YOU are. So, my question is this: will you enjoy your time in the great outdoors or will you be haunted with thoughts of why or why not you should have gone in the first place? If “going” torments your soul, then is the cost of “going” a price you are willing to pay?
    Covid has certainly given us a lot to think about, and going within and looking at ourselves deeply is one of the benefits, though that kind of work is HARD. Best wishes and IF you go… try to ENJOY every second of it!!

    • Thank you for your thoughts Sky. You are exactly right. After writing the post, I gave myself permission to runaway and give it a go. OMG it was so wonderful and exactly what I needed. YES I felt a little guilty but the handful of others I met on trail were also living life and loving it. I felt better knowing I wasn’t the only rebel. Being away from the barrage of information was so good for me. I had no doubt the risk of injury or accident was worth every second of living in the now.

      Funny you talked about how an accident can happen anywhere. When I told a friend I’d started riding my bike to cope she said that’s risky. I hadn’t really thought about it, but she was right it was more risky than walking. And then a friend posted on facebook about her daughter who was riding her bike 5 minutes from the house, on her way to physical therapy, when she had a terrible accident which result in serious surgery. So yep, life must go on.

      I hope you are doing well. I have your updated blog post flagged to read. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Oh yes, I am not saying I recognize a couple of the photos from an area visited in the past, such as yours from a pass about 7 years ago, but nothing like about half a million acres of wilderness and a bear to keep some social distancing, where normally there may not be very many open campsites available.

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