Thursday, March 12, 2020
The Virus Thing and Hiking – 8 Ways to Protect Yourself and Others
UPDATE - as of 3/26/20 things have changed on many trails. Many areas are closed off to hikers or to camping altogether. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is asking hikers to forgo any kind of hiking on the AT right now. Please consult the local, state and federal areas for these closures and please obey the regulations. Change your hiking plans. A thru hike can still be accomplished in a calendar year by some creative ways once the emergency is over. Be flexible, and most importantly, don't give up on your dream!
Every year viruses do plague the trails, esp the AT which comes down with its annul norovirus bug every spring. So of course hikers are going to wonder whether the Coronovirus will hit too.
First off, be sensible and take simple steps to safeguard yourself and those around you. A good hike in the woods is actually therapeutic for the mind and body. Cardiovascular exercise makes you feel good and releases good hormones like endorphins. Fresh air and getting away from crowds are other good things.
But be sure to follow some simple, common sense steps as there are other hikers out there and towns are also on a hiker’s list of stops for resupply. But right now avoid the heavily used areas. Seek other lesser known trails. Seek solitude. And hang in there. This too shall pass.
1. Carry hand sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol on the trail but handwash as much as possible in towns.
Practice social distancing on the trail at all times.
2. No staying in shelter areas. Some areas like on the AT are closed to backcountry camping too. Plan ahead and avoid closed areas. Have guidebooks and maps to tell you where campsites are if it is allowed.
3. NO sharing of food at any time. Do not take food from hiker boxes. Plan accordingly so you have enough food for your hike. As resupply is limited in some towns, do mail drops.
4. When in town, avoid communal and gathering areas. A motel room or a separate room when offered at hostels might be good for now (though many hostels are now closed. Budget your money so can prepare to spend a little extra for a single room. Hand wash frequently and use your hand sanitizer in town. Call ahead with hostel and other providers to see if they are open (many are not).
5. It may be hard to find rides (hitchhike) right now as people may be reluctant to pick up hikers. Plan to walk or call for a shuttle. Budget to pay for the shuttle rides. Call ahead on shuttles though as some providers are canceling services for now.
6. If you hear in the trail grapevine there is sickness ahead, avoid staying in the affected area by slowing down or speeding up. Carry extra food in case you must spend extra time on the trail and can’t get to town right away.
7. Carry good foods to eat (less of the empty sugars, etc), Vitamin C tabs, Zinc. Get enough rest. And watch the alcohol, etc.
8. If you feel sick and especially have the norovirus or a fever, get off the trail and stay away from others. Know the symptoms of each type of virus. (Noro for instance is the stomach bug with runs and vomiting. Coronovirus is a fever and dry cough with chest irritation. The common cold is a sore throat and runny nose and usually no fever). if you exhibit signs of the virus, you MUST quarantine immediately. - Best bet right now is to avoid a backpacking trip and go when it's safe.
Related Links: The Virus and Maildrops.
Need to be at home for a while? Check out my Hiking Adventure Series on the Appalachian Trail - Mountains Madness and Miracles and the Florida Trails - Gators Guts and Glory!