Pandemic Perspective

Spending time outside in the coronavirus era is more important than ever, but what’s even more critical is doing it safely and responsibly. No matter how bad we think we need a ride, run, or ramble, it’s our job to keep the best interest of our loved ones and community front of mind.

I admit I threw a bit of an adult tantrum during a Facetime dinner party with some friends when I heard the news about the Washington State Parks and other public lands closures. My beef with the shutdown was more with the lack of a nuanced approach that could have only closed specific, problematic trailheads, restrooms, facilities, and other problem areas and trail chokepoints where large crowds make social distancing difficult or impossible.  

But then I slept on it, went for a run, and chilled out. Jon Snyder, the founder of this publication who is now the Outdoor Recreation and Economic Development Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Jay Inslee, gave the emotionally-charged temporary closures some simple and well-worded clarity in a recent email to the outdoor recreation community: “Adventure can wait. The more we can social distance the quicker we can get through this.” Damn straight.  

Different people on a trail, social distancing.
Family groups staying at least 6 feet apart on the Centennial Trail. // Photo: Shallan Knowles.

Things have been changing by the day this last week of March, so I can only speculate how these words and the articles in this issue will land by the time you’re reading this. Yet, even in the thick of a global pandemic, it’s good to remember that humanity has been through far worse and survived.

A few mornings ago, I got up and went for a run on the mostly deserted Centennial Trail to get one last law-abiding sanity break in before all Washington State Parks and their trailheads and facilities, including the Centennial Trail, Mount Spokane, and Riverside, were closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Fortunately, at least as I’m writing this, local foot and bike traffic on the Centennial Trail is being allowed as long as people who don’t live together are maintaining at least six feet of social distancing space between one another. 

On that run on the Centennial Trail and then on public land managed by the City of Spokane, the cold early-morning temps, gray skies, and empty trail felt a bit apocalyptic. Yet, the robins, song sparrows, flickers, and other birds and the sound of the Spokane River plowing over ancient boulders was a calming reminder that nature, the grounding bedrock of our civilization, will persist and life of all kinds will go on long after the poignancy of this moment in human history fades. 

Now that this issue has been printed and distributed, many of the outdoor activities highlighted in this issue may or may not be possible in the same way the writers shared them with us. At least for the time being. We could have started each story with a COVID-19 disclaimer, but with a few exceptions, we chose to expect more from each one of you instead.

Until things change, before you head out your door for exercise or adventure, do your research on the latest advisories and trail, park, and facility closures for wherever you’re headed; and make good decisions on what may be a life and death choice for yourself and others if hospitals become overwhelmed with critically sick people.

Socially distanced skiing illustration by Justin Short.
Illustration: Justin Short

For the next several weeks, or as long as necessary, let’s make sacrifices together by staying home and recreating and exercising close to home as much as possible and maintaining a solid six feet of social distance from those we don’t live with whenever we venture outside.  

The coronavirus pandemic has left plenty of suffering in its wake around the world, from lost loved ones to lost jobs and the devastating impact on many small businesses, not to mention the emotional distress it has caused nearly all of us.

You may notice that this issue of Out There is a bit thinner than normal, a reaction to the economic hit many of our loyal advertisers have taken. While the future feels more uncertain than ever before, thankfully Out There Outdoors is a nimble small business based out of a home office and we’ve been able to cut back many expenses and are determined to make it through this. Nevertheless, unprecedented times like these require creative solutions and new ways to thrive. 

On March 28, 2020, we launched our Patreon campaign to give fans of our free publication the opportunity to support Out There and all the articles you love while getting different rewards back, like an invite to an annual members party (when it’s safe, of course), Patreon member only Backcountry Booty contest opportunities, OTO swag, and more. Patreon is a widely-used platform that allows people to support creative projects and is a great fit for allowing those of you who want to help keep Out There available in our communities each month through these extraordinary times.

Thank you for supporting us if you can at our page, and be safe, stay healthy, and still have fun out (or in) there! 

Derrick Knowles, publisher

Check out the Social Distancing Survival Guide from the April 2020 issue.

April 2020 Cover
April 2020 Cover

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