By Justin Milton
Normally, hiking has few restrictions. There is not really a limit on the number of people that you can go with, the distance you can be from people, or even the places you can go. You can enjoy your hike, with little worrying and plenty of fun.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began though, restrictions have been put in place for all of these things. You need to wear a mask near others and try to always stay at least 6 feet apart (social distancing). Going with large groups of people is frowned upon, and you will want to keep the group size to a minimum while out on the trail.
When it is not really possible to stay 6 feet apart, for example when passing others on a narrow trail, it is courteous to pull to the side and let the other group pass (if they do not pull to the side first). It is recommended that you wear a mask whenever you pass someone out on a trail. You can take your mask off when they are gone.
One part about hiking that people enjoy is going on trails all around the state or even the country. During the pandemic though, it is recommended to avoid going on trails outside of your local area. This helps minimize the spread of Covid-19 by lowering the possible encounters you have with other people, which is the main way that the virus spreads.
If you plan to have a picnic or go camping, during the pandemic you will want to check in on that area first. For having a picnic, it is appropriate to do so as long as it is not in a crowded location, with people outside of your group. Due to some campgrounds being closed, checking to see if they are open first before going there can save you some time.
Keep in mind that although hiking has restrictions now, it still has many health benefits for your mind and body. As Jill Suttie puts it in Greater Good Magazine “hiking involves something many other forms of exercise don’t: trails. That means it requires navigating in a world that’s not totally predictable. Slippery dirt, overhanging branches and hidden obstacles, trail markers, and wild animals crossing your path—all of the things you might encounter on a trail require micro- and macro-adjustments to your route, which is good for your brain.” By hiking on trails, it can provide a much-needed escape from quarantined households.
There are of course many other benefits, including the workout your muscles get, or the peace that comes to many when out in the woods in Montaña de Oro or elsewhere. But check if where you are planning on going is open and safe first.