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Hiking Bob: Outdoor Recreation in the days of COVID-19 

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In the space of a week, the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have grown exponentially in the United States. Numbers of cases have increased, along with closures of sporting events, concerts and other gatherings, large and small. Panic buying in stores, even for things that don't seem to make sense, has caused temporary shortages of some household products, and government and health officials continue to warn against personal contact with others, to wash hands frequently and thoroughly, and to maintain a safe "social distance" from others.

In Colorado, the governor ordered ski resorts to close, not because of any threat by being outdoors, but because of the threat of spread in tight lift lines, lodges, restaurants, etc. In fact, it still appears that being outdoors, where you're not breathing recirculated air, and where your social distance can be miles from the nearest person, is still one of the safest activities to engage in during these troubled times.  As of this time, all National Park Service sites, Colorado State Parks and campgrounds, and local parks remain open, however the Garden of the Gods Visitors Center is closed while the park itself remains open. This type of partial closure of park facilities may become more commonplace in the near future.

But even engaging in outdoor activities requires taking some precautions and using some common sense. If you are thinking of going for a hike or a bike ride, or whatever your preferred activity is, do it in a smart manner:
  • Reduce your chances of infection by reducing your interactions with others.
  • Avoid visitors centers.  Almost any map or park or trail information that you desire is available online. Do your research and print whatever you need from home, or store the information on your phone. Or, call ahead for information. In Colorado, the COTREX app and associated website is a great resource.
  • If where you are going requires a pass, check if you can purchase one online, instead of in-person. At parks that have the facilities for it, purchase your pass at an automated kiosk.
  • Maintain safe outdoor recreation precautions, especially not hiking alone, when possible. If you go with someone, consider meeting at the trailhead instead of car-pooling, ensure that they are asymptomatic, and even when hiking, keep a safe distance and minimize contact.
  • Bring snacks and water with you from home, instead of trying to get them on your way to your hike or bike ride.
  • Wash your hands. A lot.
  • This is not the time to try anything new or daring, where the risk of injury is higher than normal. Emergency services are already stretched thin. Don't make things worse. This may not be the time to try rappelling for the first time, or trying the double-black-diamond downhill bike trail for the first time. Give first responders a break.
  • If you feel ill, even if not with COVID-19 symptoms, or if you have been in contact with anyone with symptoms, or confirmed to have the illness, STAY HOME. 

As always, contact your doctor or a medical professional if you have any questions or need advice. Go to the Centers for Disease Control website for the latest information.

Be Safe. Be Well.

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for almost 28 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (@hikingguide), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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