colorful sunset

Flu and the Trail

We’re now at least a couple months into the surreal shitshow called “COVID-19” (a coronavirus). I’ve spent the past week and a half-sequestered very remotely, not just because of the misanthropy I’ve felt more and more while scanning the news and social media, but to enjoy the wild, help build an off-grid house, and perhaps survive (and help others survive) the pandemic I’ve been warning friends about since I was a nurse in Portland in the oughties. This type of thing was bound to happen, and it’s too bad more people aren’t more prepared. (That said, not many of us have the resources to be prepared.)

While cutting wood, plastering, and painting over the past week, various unrelated COVID-19 impacts have come to mind. Having gotten more and more worried about hoarding, I came to town yesterday to stock up on groceries, only to find nightmares coming true. I feel less stupid for acting on a hunch. What am I forgetting?

Another impact that came to mind yesterday is how hikers on long trails will adapt to drastic nation-wide changes in routine. Immediately I wondered about hikers’

1) Travel. How are foreign hikers getting in, and even more crucial, how are they getting out if something goes wrong? What if there are border shut-downs? What if National Parks are closed?
2) Health emergencies. How can hikers expect to get emergency health care if local hospitals are overwhelmed with flu cases? And do hikers want to take on the possible role of vector as they return to/from the trail? Who will respond when you hit your emergency beacon button if even the National Guard is tied up?
3) Resupply. Supermarkets and convenience stores alike are being gutted. How will hikers obtain food, if they can reach these stores? Will they be able to rely on the USPS, UPS, and FedEx? What other supportive services, such as gear shops and restaurants, will be closed?
4) Local transportation and hosting. Can hikers rely on shuttles, buses, and the goodness of strangers to pick up hitch-hikers now that paranoia and sequestering have taken root? (Xenophobia is real.) Will gasoline flow or will hoarding occur? Do hikers want to get into any vehicle with someone who may be sick? Will trail angels allow 50+ hikers to stay in their homes every day for the next several months? Will hotels be functioning as usual?
5) Local interface vs responsibility. How do hikers expect to be treated by locals as the outsider, and a possible vector? How do hikers feel knowing they might be transmitting a harmful virus? How does the PCTA feel about 50 hikers starting their walks together at the Mexican border every day for the next several months?

These were just some preliminary thoughts, and made me really really glad I don’t have a long hike planned for this Spring. This blog post was originally going to be something more about lesser-considered but really serious hazards of hiking the Hayduke (ones I realized in hindsight), but that will have to come later. Stay safe out there!