(The following is from Backcountry Journal, a weekly newsletter by Adirondack Explorer multimedia reporter Mike Lynch.)
Getting through the coming weeks and months is going to be challenging as the coronavirus spreads, and being prepared as you navigate through this new world is going to be important. It’s not too late to get organized for dealing with it, and you can use your outdoor skills to help you get through it, even if most of your time in the near future is spent inside.
People who hike, camp, paddle, fish and hunt develop survival and organization skills through these activities. Now is the time to put those to use. Here are some thoughts about how you can do that, framing this upcoming journey as a backcountry trip.
Create short and long-term plans
- If you’re a backcountry user, you are always planning trips, analyzing what food you need, where to get water, how long it will take to hike a mountain, etc. Put those skills to work and plan how to get through these times. Unlike other journeys you’ve taken, the destination for this journey will be marked by dates in time, not geography. Have both a short-term plan for the immediate circumstances and a long-range one that may take you to a point in time 12 to 18 months down the line, or even further into the future. Many experts have said this pandemic could continue to return in waves until a vaccine is created and enough people build up immunity. Read this article in the Atlantic for a long-term perspective on the pandemic.
- Make sure you have a good variety of food, including some staples – pasta, rice, etc. – that could get you through a period when you can’t get to the grocery store, if you get sick, or whatever.
- Storing your food properly will be important this spring. You’re going to be especially pissed off if some mice eat through your new loaf of bread. Consider putting some of your staples in a plastic bin or set those mouse traps. Maybe you could put that bear-resistant canister or food storage barrel for canoe trips to work in your house.
- Despite being told to stay home, you should still make sure you’re eating as healthy as possible in order to keep your immune system strong. Here’s a good column by Yvona Fast about that topic.
- Maybe start an indoor garden with something simple like herbs. It will be rewarding to eat food you’ve grown yourself while giving you something to do. Think about starting an outdoor garden in the summer.
- Get creative. If you’ve ever camped, you likely mixed together a variety of leftovers you wouldn’t normally at home. Put that hot sauce to work!
- The water supply seems safe now, and hopefully will remain that way. But you’re always recommended to have some on hand in case of an emergency, even if that means just filling up your water bottles, empty 2-liter bottles or whatever. Maybe it’s time to locate that hiking or camping water filter and make sure it’s in working order in case you need to use it down the line.
- There’s a reason outdoor gear stores carry hand sanitizer. For any outdoors person, having proper hygiene is essential to staying healthy. In the woods, you don’t want to get any germs into your system. That’s, of course, super imperative in this case. So wash your hands repeatedly, before meals, after possible exposure to germs, and whenever it seems appropriate.
- Don’t touch your face. You don’t want those germs to get near places, such as your mouth, nose, eyes, where they can infect you.
- Use soap and water first. Hand sanitizer when that’s not available.
- Clean surfaces in your house if it’s possibility they are contaminated.
- People who spend time in the woods away from society should be adept at this. A lot of outdoors people go in the woods to get away from other people. Now you just have to do it on a daily basis. When you do encounter people outside your household, health officials are recommending that you stay at least 6 feet away from them in order to avoid breathing in airborne germs from coughs, sneezes, and potentially even ordinary breathing from others.
- Figure out ways to exercise in your house or near your home. It will help you stay healthy, reduce stress and boost your immune system.
- Read up on expedition behavior, which was developed for people going on extended adventures in groups. We’re all going to be at our best to overcome this pandemic. Expedition behavior includes remaining calm, positive, and contributing to the greater good of your community. You can read about expedition behavior here.
- When you’re on a long-distance trip in a wilderness area, the degree of difficulty for your activity of choice – whether it’s climbing, paddling, or hiking – is always higher than when you’re deep in the woods and far from emergency services. Right now, everyone should consider they are living in a remote wilderness setting and there is potential they will have to self-rescue or take care of themselves if a medical issue arises. Hospitals are full or filling up, and health professionals will already be overburdened in dealing with coronavirus patients. There’s a chance you’ll be on your own out there. Be prepared for that mentally and eliminate risks in your activities that could require you to get care that doesn’t exist. Be cautious when choosing your activities.
Keep a journal
- Trail journals are fun to read after hiking or camping trips. In this case, keeping a journal could save someone’s life. If you do get coronavirus, medical professionals will ask you where you’ve been and who you have encountered so that people who have been exposed to coronavirus can be aware of that fact. If you keep a journal, you’ll have that information readily available. It’s also therapeutic to keep a journal.
- Give yourself a mental break from the daily news about the pandemic by reading a book rather than just spending spare time on social media, where there is an endless amount of stories about coronavirus being posted.
Other potential threats
- If you do go outside, don’t get complete tunnel vision about coronavirus to the point that you forget about other potential threats, such as ticks carrying Lyme and other diseases. Take precautions to avoid getting them on your body when you go outside. Do tick checks. You don’t want to go to the doctor for any reason right now.
- If you haven’t done this already, get on it. You need to have Tylenol, cough medicine, and whatever else you think your body will need to fight coronavirus.
Use your brain
- One final suggestion: use your HEAD. People that are 60 and 70 and 80 years old have thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, climbed the 46 High Peaks, and paddled the Northern Forest Canoe Trail while physically superior 20-year-olds have failed. Why? Because they used their brains to figure out how to do it safely and intelligently. You’ve been told what is safe to do: Stay home as much as possible and avoid people outside your household through social distancing. If you do have to go out, take proper precautions. Stick to that advice and make smart decisions.
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