COVID-19 is driving a lot of people outdoors to find some relief from the quarantine. On the surface, that’s a good thing.
But a lot of these people discovering (or rediscovering) the outdoors are going to wind up injured, sick or worse. I went out for a ride to scout the Goldfield Mountains near Apache Junction, Ariz., yesterday. I’d never seen such long lines to park at a trailhead.
While it was initially refreshing to see, I had some encounters with other trail users that show that the COVID-19 outdoor boom is going to have serious repercussions.
This is important right now because our healthcare system is already working itself to death. The last thing anyone needs is your ass in an emergency room for reasons that are 100 percent preventable.
Lack of Preparation Can Kill
During the last few minutes of my ride, a couple in their 50s flagged me down.
They’d wandered out of the park boundary on what they’d planned to be a “five minute hike” (insert face-palm here). No water, no sunscreen, no snacks.
The wife was calm as could be. The dude was losing his shit (they were literally less than a half mile from their car). He was getting dizzy so he sat down – and I actually had to tell him to get in the shade. He also said “can anyone come and get us?“
This was a singletrack trail, so that wasn’t possible. He also kept saying he didn’t think the directions I gave him were right – my dude, only one of us is lost.
I gave him some gels and electrolyte powder (his response was “what is it?“). I also made him put on some sunscreen.
Wildlife is Nothing to Mess With
Spring in the desert means one thing to me: rattlesnakes.
I’m sure the guy wandering off-trail in tall grass would disagree. Rattlesnakes were clearly the furthest thing from his mind.
Here’s the thing: Rattlers love tall grass. Fortunately, they really don’t want to bite people. That’s a last resort. But stepping too close to them is their definition of last resort.
And a good way to step too close to them is to not see them, especially in areas where they like to hide.
This guy was a rattlesnake bite waiting to happen. And he probably has no idea what to do if he gets bitten by a rattlesnake.
How to Stay Safe Outdoors During the COVID-19 Quarantine
I don’t want people to stay indoors during the quarantine. This is a great time to rediscover the outdoors for recreation and fitness. But I don’t want any of you to do anything stupid. Like get yourself killed (dehydration and rattlesnake bites are awful ways to die).
These are some basic by no means comprehensive tips:
- Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return.
- Carry water with you at all times. I recommend no less than a gallon per person.
- Carry some form of electrolytes. Exertion and heat will make you sweat, and you need sodium, magnesium and potassium to keep your body working. I recommend Nuun tablets.
- Bring a snack. Calories matter.
- Screen yourself from the sun. Hats, sunscreens and long sleeves are the way. I know long sleeves seem counterintuitive. But loose-fighting, lightweight fabrics keep you cool and provide sun protection.
- Use some sort of a GPS device, and carry a map, too.
- Stay calm if things start going pear-shaped. Fear is the mind killer.
- Finally, use the outdoors within your means. If you’ve been sitting on the couch for the last decade, don’t make your first hike an epic adventure. Work up to the bigger stuff.
I could add a lot of things, like first aid kits, a decent fixed-blade knife, etc. But none of that does any good unless you know how to use it.
Know How to Encounter Other People
It’s inevitable that you’re going to run into other people while you enjoy the outdoors during the Coronavirus quarantine. See keep something else in mind: Be ready to encounter others. Stay to the right whenever possible. Don’t spread your party out across the entire trail.
Treat it like a road. Allow others to pass you, whether they’re going faster in the same direction or headed the other way. Model this behavior for your kids, too. They’ll act on the trails just like you do. So be safe and courteous.