April 2020:

I hope this blog post finds you well.

The coronavirus has drastically reshaped all facets of American life. From work to social gatherings, our life from two months ago has dramatically changed. For those of us who are not working tirelessly on the frontlines, we are extremely grateful to have the luxury of free time. As we transition to work from home and social distancing, one aspect of life should and can remain constant – our everyday interactions with nature and the outdoors. Perhaps, amidst the pandemic, we can begin to use some of our unusual free time to get outdoors and into nature, especially during Earth Month. I certainly have been fortunate enough to be able to hike more than I usually do.

The curve has “flattened,” thanks to our efforts at social distancing. Yet, we are all beginning to get agitated to get back to our everyday interactions with others and with the world. News photos of flocks of young people gathered in parks in New York City to enjoy some much-needed fresh air might leave us excited for normalcy or scared for a looming second wave of infection. In my county in Connecticut, I’ve noticed an overwhelming amount of people using the roads and trails for biking, running and walking in their free times. It’s quite relieving to think that us humans have a uniting hobby amidst all the chaos. A hike near our local streams or parks can give us a moment to reset, forget the stress of the pandemic, and relax.

The trails are not the same, however. I’ve noticed significant use of the trails, which has its downsides. Many trails are now littered with masks and gloves and vegetation is trampled as hikers leave the trail in fear of human contact.

Whenever I go for a hike, I always try to pocket a few pieces of trash along the trail. Now, worries of catching the virus has left me questioning whether I should pick up the rubber glove, energy bar wrapper, or mask I find littered across the trail.

Excess litter of masks and gloves are not the only problem. When coming across a fellow hiker on the trail, I now am worried about unknowingly transmitting or receiving the disease as I pass by. I try to keep my distance and raise my buff over my nose and mouth.

With all of this, I’ve put together a list of a few pointers for hiking during Covid-19.

  1. Wear a buff around your neck to cover your nose and mouth – its less clumsy than a mask and can double as bug protection
  2. Just because you can’t get close to others doesn’t mean you can’t say hello on the trail!
  3. Be aware of your surroundings and be courteous to those who want to pass.
  4. Despite social distancing rules, principles of Leave No Trace still apply.
  5. If you’d still like to pick up litter along the trail, make your own iteration of a trash grabber by cutting a slit in an old milk carton.

                     A DIY trash grabber like this can help you avoid direct contact with litter along the trail!

     6. And finally, enjoy the trails!

A local reservoir in Westchester County, New York

Stay well – Maitland.