Like many Outside staffers and readers, I’m fortunate to be accustomed to daily outdoor time. Walks or hikes or hot spring visits always do wonders to recharge my internal battery and keep me in a positive mindset.
This time has become all the more precious since we started social distancing and working from home due to the spread of COVID-19. But every day, new guidelines emerge for how and where we can go outside safely. Some national parks have closed, a man was fined for surfing at a closed beach in California, and even parts of the Appalachian Trail are off limits. We’re all wondering: How safe am I on this walking path? Did that biker going past me get too close?
With these questions on my mind, I headed to a hiking trail near where I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with my dog over the weekend. Because I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to do even this distanced of an activity, the excursion took on a greater sense of urgency. However, it quickly became apparent that hiking would not be on our agenda: cars were lined up along the road and filling makeshift dirt lots near every trailhead. People were trying to social distance while getting outside, but we all headed to the same place.
Faced with crowds of outdoor enthusiasts, I decided to ditch the hike altogether. I walked down the road from the trailhead where I parked and strung up my Eno hammock in a quiet spot—close to the road but away from the masses.
This felt like a failure at first: more lounging around, when I had been sitting at home all week already. But as I swung gently in my cozy nylon nest, the sun hitting my face and the sound of rustling leaves filling my ears, I realized that my hammock was exactly what I needed. I was outside, not thinking about or reading the news and away from other people. I felt the calmest I had in days.
The coming weeks and months promise more uncertainty and continued or increased social distancing measures as we work to get through the pandemic. I don’t know if I’ll be able to go back to that trail or to my nearby park next week or next month. But I feel lucky that I can sling up my hammock in my yard whenever I want, letting the sun on my face remind me that I made it through another day. For now, that’s more than enough.
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