Author’s note: This open letter was written in the context of Phase 1 of B.C.’s Restart Plan, which ended May 18, 2020.
To my fellow hikers:
As we begin this long weekend, I have to admit I’m really disappointed by the apparent selfishness on display by many in the hiking community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Too many of us are asking “What loopholes can I find in the various public health advisories to justify my next hike?” instead of “What can I do to help limit the number of people who will die from coronavirus disease?”
Many hikers are laser-focused on the 2-metre (6-feet) rule, ignoring other equally important aspects of physical and social distancing. For instance, some hikers insist on continuing to meet up with groups of people (from multiple households and cities) at remote trailheads.
Never mind the fact that search and rescue teams have advised hikers to be extra cautious so as to keep their volunteers safe and to not add stress to the health-care system during a crisis. That communities such as Squamish and Pemberton have requested out-of-towners stay away to protect the locals. That the B.C. government has asked hikers to “do their part and not venture into the wilderness at this time.”
I know we’re all struggling to adapt to this new reality — and it isn’t easy. Some of you have lost jobs, are dealing with childcare or mental health struggles, or are worried about the future. If you’re like me, hiking fills many of your physical, social, psychological, and spiritual needs. Hell, I’m supposed to be researching my next hiking guidebook.
However, the sacrifice we are being asked to make as hikers is minor in comparison to what’s at stake, particularly for the vulnerable and marginalized people among us. Clearly, any weakening of our collective efforts to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) will also prolong the need for widespread park, trail, and campsite closures.
We’re all wondering: How long will the first wave last? When will physical and social distancing measures be relaxed? How many people will die?
One notable thing about this crisis is we’ve all been repeatedly informed what we can do to help. You can literally stay home, order Chinese take-out, watch your favourite camping horror movie (any recommendations?), and do your part.
It’s really this simple:
- Stay the F home
- Don’t hang out with people you don’t live with
- Avoid non-essential travel
- Get outdoors in your neighbourhood for exercise
- Keep your distance from people outside your household
- Wash your hands
Remember: We’re all in this together. Your favourite hike isn’t going anywhere.
I look forward to seeing you on the trails — as soon as it’s responsible to do so.
Author, 105 Hikes In and Around Southwestern British Columbia
This article appeared in the Georgia Straight on April 10, 2020.