A spread out hike – in dresses, on my wedding day! Image Credit: Renee Rosensteel

Life has changed pretty significantly over the last couple of weeks. I sense that we’re all doing the best we can to get by despite the very real hardships that so many of us face.

One of the things that’s been on my mind, like many of you, is how safe is it to go for a hike or a bike ride with a friend. I’ve cancelled what coaching sessions and walking meetings that I had scheduled, but have still wondered whether it is okay to take a trail walk with a friend.

I’m not a medical professional, so I wouldn’t dare try to answer this question, but I have been looking for the answer. Thankfully, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy wrote a great post on the topic, Staying Active While We Practice Social Distancing (thanks, RTC!).

My interpretation of what RTC shared is that getting outside is, in fact, safe and good for us (nature is almost always good for us!). But we still need select our trails and natural areas carefully and maintain six feet in distance from others.

Some ideas on how to get outside right now

We’re on the cusp of spring, one of my favorite times to be out for a walk or hike. Yesterday, I went down to my local multi-use trail with a tape measure. The trail is 10-feet wide. To walk in a pair at nearly six feet apart would mean to take up nearly the entire trail. With cyclists and runners passing by, this may not be the safest or most considerate thing to do. Although I wonder if we might relax some of our standard trail etiquette and the tension between user types right now.

Let me offer some alternatives to taking up the width of your trail:

  • Rather than walk, ride. It’s easy to keep six feet in distance if you’re riding in a line. The same goes for mountain biking.
  • If hiking, use a nature trail and walk in a line. Allow at least six feet from the front to back of the line. I find it difficult to hear my hiking buddies under these circumstances, but maybe we’ll talk a little less these hikes. I’ve done silent, reflective hikes with friends and will say it’s neat to share a companionable silence in the great outdoors.
  • Walk a wide open field or beach. Maybe take kites along or look for shark’s teeth.
  • Sit by a stream and write (together, six feet apart or more).
  • As much as we might like to reduce the number of cars on the road (which Coronavirus has done already), if you’re driving, meet at the trailhead rather than carpooling.
  • Finally, I know I’m writing about how to get out with others, but I’m an advocate of solo walks and rides. I recognize that many of are craving connection and relationship right now, but there’s always room to work on your relationship with nature—and yourself.

A few closing thoughts on what we’re all facing

I shared this in a Facebook post the other day, but will repeat here: There’s so much I want to express about how Coronavirus has altered our lives, but I’ll keep this somewhat short. I’m heartened that so many people are following social distancing recommendations and hope that even more will jump on board.

Pema Chödrön writes about the groundlessness of being human and encourages us to live wholeheartedly in the face of uncertainty. We are in a whopping big time of groundlessness right now. I’m hoping for the best possible outcome for our global community and that we will find ways to live with our whole hearts in this challenging time. I’m hoping that we’ll find ways to connect beyond physically gathering. To build and sustain community without being face to face. To offer affection from afar.

I read that crisis begets innovation. Let’s find new ways of loving and supporting each other, of practicing gentleness and compassion, while not putting each other physically at risk.

Skunk Cabbage, which I love spotting on spring hikes.

A few final thoughts…while there is nothing funny about the impacts of COVID-19, there is humor to be found in most every situation in life. Let’s keep laughing with each other (at the little things that are, indeed, funny). Let’s take to nature and enjoy its healing qualities. Let’s appreciate all of those on the frontlines. I have so much respect for our healthcare community, but also for grocery clerks, delivery drivers, gas station attendants, and so many others. They are redefining what it means to be on the frontlines.

Please take care of each other and hang in there.