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Hiking During a Pandemic: Risks, Precautions, and Takeaways

Posted: 4/22/2020

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Hiking During a Pandemic: Risks, Precautions, and Takeaways

The following is a guest blog by our Chamber member Jackson Donnelly.

Through his business "Hike with Jackson," Donnelly offers guided hikes in and around the Adirondack Park. He offers a variety of experiences for different skill levels. You can opt for a  1-to-1.5-hour hike, half-day hike or full-day hike. Customize your trip and plan for specific mountains based on availabitly and current conditions.

We asked him to provide some tips for staying safe while on the trail during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also provided the beautiful fall foliage photo above from a hike in the Berry Pond Preserve. (Autumn is a great time to hike and visit the Lake George region! More colors and less bugs.)

Read on below!

As we all continue to steep in the cabin fever the locked-down springtime has caused to fester in us, we must make sure we are making safe choices when leaving our cabins! We have to understand that our actions have large downstream consequences that we cannot ignore especially when utilizing our outdoor recreation escapes. 

Without the virus fully understood there are many precautionary measures that all of us need to implement. (Click here for New York State guidance on that.)

At the time of this update, there is a clear directive to limit discretionary travel, social distance (6-feet apart) and when that is not possible there is a mandate to wear a mask or cloth covering. To be clear, the mask is to prevent you from shedding the virus as widely away from your body IT IS NOT SPECIFICALLY A PROTECTION FOR YOU — it is a protection for the people around you. It is a way to show that you care about the people around you in your community. Because you could have the virus and be asymptomic, you have to treat yourself as a potential spreader at all times. I understand that can be a stressful endeavor, but we are all going through it together. 

What does this mean for enjoying our favorite hikes and destinations?

We have to be realistic about the conditions of our hiking trails. There are already Trail closures due to unsafe use practices (overcrowding) under the current state guidance. The Lake George Land Conservancy closed Pilot Knob preserve due to overuse. The town of Bolton also closed the Pinnacle earlier this month for the same reason.

Be sure to check the LGLC's website for updates on trail conditions and closures. The webiste also features an interactive map of all their other properties!

You can also find hiking and recreation information on the DEC's website.

This is a great time to spread your use out and enjoy some of the local walks that may not have the headlining view that many of us have come to expect from an outing. If the time inside cannot spur in us the appreciation for being outside in nature without a vista, I'm uncertain what will. 

What can we do to come together as a community to insure safety in the outdoors and reducing future closures? 

Hike locally!!!! To those of you that are thinking about driving into town for a hike please reconsider! We rely on tourism as a community, however as a state we have all made sacrifices to help contain this virus. The stricter we are now the sooner we can start accommodating travelers again! I personally want nothing more than to start guiding again. I am confident that the economy will be reopened in a time frame that has been agreed upon to be safe. Unfortunately until that time, we are forced to ask you to wait and plan future trips. 

Hiking and the fresh air are not the same through a mask and no one is going to tell you otherwise. However, there are many times during the course of a hike where crossing paths with fellow hikers in our dense Adirondack forests provide little chance to safely pass while social distancing. That being said. Have your mask ready to deploy if a situation is to arise for the safety of everyone. 

Trees and roots are constantly used as railings on steeper hikes, with respiratory droplets from contaminated hands looking to be a main cause of transmission, there is a chance that there is a potential contagion on those polished smooth handles we all tend to grab. Trekking poles can further reduce contact with high traffic handholds. 

YOU MUST HAVE A BACKUP TRAIL IN MIND. If a trailhead looks crowded be ready to go somewhere else or try again at a less busy time. Continued overuse is going to continue a vicious cycle of trail closures and higher traffic on the still open trails. We all have to do our part on reducing the chance that those closure decisions have to be made. 

NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO GET HURT IN THE WILDERNESS. The hospital is the last place that you want to find yourself. If you were to have to be carried out it takes a large team of people to haul a backcountry stretcher(litter) over difficult terrain. It is not the time to subject volunteers to those conditions. Limit elaborate plans. Be conservative. 

With the risk of trail closures weighing heavily on my mind, I hope that we can come together and prevent the possibility of further reductions in options for outdoor escape. There are benefits to the outdoors, and we will benefit greatly by continuing to utilize this resource. This includes a positive mental state that is fostered by exercise and a respite from the technology and our indoor lifestyle. Being in the sunshine can help in defense against this virus via the vitamin D helping the immune system. That being said, there are safe use practices that we all need to implement. Now is a time for selflessness. It is the time for following precautionary guidelines personally and reducing risk for our community as a whole. It is the time to prevent the need for trail closure decisions by avoiding crowded trails. We can come together to protect the resources of the outdoors for everyone in a relatively safe capacity if we foster these attitudes with our own personal circles. 

Remember this is called “social distancing” but it is really more of a physical distance recommendation. Remember to be friendly. You never know what someone is going through and now more than ever, that little gesture can make a huge difference. 

Be safe IN or OUT there! 

— Jackson Donnelly
Hike With Jackson 

Spreading the word — not the virus

In addition, below are a few social media hashtags trending in the area. Use them when you post about your responsible outdoor recreation experience to help spread the word about the importance of maintaining distancing outdoors.


Click here to read more about these intiatives!

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