As someone who lives near the mountains and the Appalachian Trail in Maine, let me tell you — it is crazy up here. We don’t have the thru-hikers like those down south, but we are inundated with day hikers. Check out this video of Mount Major — it’s insane the number of people lining up at trailheads in NH and Maine. The organizations that run these locations are pleading with people not to crowd the trails, but few are listening. If you are thinking about driving hours to hike or ski (or hike to watch people ski), here are a few reasons why you should reconsider those plans.
Stay home for the community
The county where I live only has a handful of coronavirus cases, which is good because we only have a few small hospitals. These hospitals have less than 25-beds and no intensive care units. Zip. Zilch. Anyone seriously ill is sent to the one big hospital in Maine, and it is already crazy busy with coronavirus patients.
I get it that you want to hike. I do too, but we are supposed to staying in our local communities to keep the virus from spreading. We especially don’t need it in these rural areas where we can’t handle a widespread epidemic.
Do it for SAR
With more people hiking, Search and Rescue is as busy as ever. A popular hiking area near me had two major rescues — one last weekend and one this weekend. Hop over to NH, and there are even more cases of people needing assistance to get off the mountains almost one a day it seems. And it’s not just injuries, most of the time, it’s a person who has lost the trail and didn’t bring a flashlight.
Do it for the trail
The foot traffic is at mid-summer levels at some of the popular places. Unfortunately, this is the worst time to be out on the trail. Snow is melting, so the trails are a combination of slush, mud, and water.
Most people don’t like walking through deep mud or water, so they walk around these obstacles. Walking in these conditions widens the trail and trashes the surface. Traffic is usually light this time of year, and the path absorbs the impact. When traffic goes off the chart like it is now, the effects are going to be ten times worse.
Trail maintainers can help offset the impact, but that’s not happening right now. The AMC has asked that all trail maintainers adhere to social distancing and stay home.
What you can do instead of hike
Don’t travel to hike. Stay as close as possible to your local community. If you shop with them, you can hike with them. Find local trails or back roads where you can walk. Take up bike riding or some other outdoor pursuit until we are free and clear to travel again. Plan your next trip, test out some gear, or camp in your backyard. Read some books or watch a movie.
If you must go out, stay off the trails that are crowded. Go early, so you miss the crowds. Not a morning person? Come with a contingency plan so you can hike another trail if the parking lot at the trailhead is full. Don’t be that hiker that parks on the road, damages the trail, and spreads the virus.
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