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Where and How To Play Outside During COVID-19

Maroon Bells in Aspen, CO (Michael Berg | MikeBPhotography)
NPS poster which says "Stay Safe. Recreate Responsibly"
The National Park Service asks the public to please recreate safely and responsibly. Stay in your local area and follow Leave No Trace principles. More at NPS.GOV.

It’s March 25, 2020. The great state of Colorado has just issued an order warning all residents to stay at home. What’s the first thing you do? Apparently, if you’re in Colorado you go outside immediately for some hiking and sunshine. When the long winter starts to thaw, you take advantage of it, pandemic be damned. The pristine Rocky Mountains are calling, and you will go to explore them because you’re a mountain biking, climb-a-holic, 14er dominating, man-or-woman-of-the-woods Coloradan and that’s what we do.

When escaping quarantine to get outdoors, you will encounter a whole host of people with the same idea. To most, five consecutive hours of watching Netflix can be a little mind-numbing, even if it is the fascinating Tiger King series. We’re tired of being inside, and seeing as we’re Coloradans — or fake California Coloradans like myself — the outdoors is a big part of our lives. We should take this opportunity to get ourselves and our dogs out into nature and the wilderness. However, here are a few extra precautions and helpful tips you can keep in mind to make sure you stay safe and healthy:

Get off the beaten path.

Instead of opting for a popular trail near Horsetooth Reservoir, consider exploring county roads to the North and East; there are plenty of secluded trail heads throughout. Google Maps or Earth can be a great guide- there is plenty of lesser-known state land available for you to explore. The birds-eye view can be a great tool to help you find your next adventure or spot some premium real estate for your hammock. If traveling solo, be sure to tell a friend where you are headed or drop them a pin, especially if doing any extreme sports such as climbing. One humble trail head suggestion (don’t tell anyone): 40°11’37.5″N 105°32’31.7″W.

Pack accordingly

And take some hand sanitizer with you. Try not to touch anything that looks like it gets a lot of attention, but if you do, sanitize. If you’re clean out of hand sanitizer because the store has been sold out before noon, Fort Collins breweries and distilleries turned sanitizer producers have your back. If you are still living on campus until the summer, ask your building facility manager for a bottle of the craft-brewed goop. Here is a link to find who out who your building manager is.

Stay in your local area.

I know it’s tempting to take advantage of this time and hop on up to Rocky Mountain National Park, but the savvy park rangers have anticipated our rebellious ways and have closed the park until further notice. When late spring and summer arrive, dispersed camping and backpacking are definitely doable, but trying to stay within Larimer County is a good way to go. The Poudre Canyon and Red Feather Lakes should provide plenty of great options for fishing, hanging by the campfire, or whatever vice suits you.

If you are sick, please stay at home.

This one is essential. No one should venture out if they have any symptoms of COVID-19 or the even the common cold. Please stay inside and plan your trip a few weeks after you are feeling better. If you are mildly sick and still want to be active, visit the CSU Rec Center website. You can take your laptop outside and get to work with a growing selection of recorded workout videos that the Rec is putting on.

The AllTrails app is a great resource to find just about any trail that is near your town.

Try not to breathe on anyone.

The CDC has given the go-ahead for your grandma to hand-knit you a face mask to slow the spread of Covid, so be a good citizen and wear it. If going outdoors with your face naked, please still stay a minimum of 6 feet away from any fellow humans. If you don’t know what 6 feet looks like, that’s roughly the length of a tiger from Joe Exotic’s zoo. To be polite to all passers-by on the trail, be sure to give all a wide berth as you pass and give the minimum distance regardless of if you are both wearing masks.

Following these rules should help keep you and yours healthy and active. As the summer months arrive, we’re going to be even more anxious to get out and do the things we love. This means now is the time to start planning one-tank trips responsibly so you can scratch that outdoor itch. Above all, keep in mind that this is a trying time, and the natural Colorado habitat can help us deal with the stressors of COVID-19 (additional help available here). So please take care and enjoy the Northern Colorado spring landscape, and remember that this will all pass in time.

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