Bringing the Outdoors Inside During Quarantine
Go from couch potato to couch adventurer
By now you’ve rearranged your furniture three times, tried half a dozen new recipes for cauliflower casserole, and not only know what TikTok is but have mastered your latest routine. You’ve binged at least one questionable “documentary,” taught your parents how to use Zoom, and officially given up on pants. You are staying inside, doing your part: you are a real American hero. Now is it time to go outside?
We are nature people: hike-from-Mexico-to-Canada-for-six-months kind of nature people. We know how hard it can be to stay indoors, but efforts to flatten the curve are working, and are still vitally important.
For those of us who itch for the trails, woods, and parks, it can feel especially frustrating to stay at home. Even folks who don’t regularly explore the outdoors may find themselves suddenly craving some kind of wilderness to provide relief from confined living.
Mental health experts agree that spending time outside each day can ease anxiety, lower stress, heart rate, and blood pressure. And of course outdoor recreation is good for your physical health, including your lungs and immune system.
So how can we take care of our mental and physical health as well as our community?
For starters, it’s absolutely still allowed—and even recommended—to spend time outside, but make sure that you are always following social distancing protocols. Avoid touching your face, and wash your hands thoroughly before leaving and when returning home. The exact shelter-in-place restrictions vary from state to state, but a good guideline is to keep your outdoor activities within walking distance of your home if you can, or at the very least stay within your own county.
Not everyone can or should leave their homes, but many of us still crave scenic environments and breathtaking views. Here are some ways to infuse nature into your quarantine life:
Get a virtual breath of fresh air
Ok, so no screen can quite substitute for the real thing, but technology can also bring you scenes you would never see otherwise.
Our kind of reality TV
Drama, betrayal, suspense: no, it’s not Love is Blind, it’s the Eagle Cam at Standley Lake Regional Park in Westminster, Colorado. The city installed a camera in 2017 to allow viewers around the world to witness the yearly nesting, incubation, and hatching of a beloved bald eagle family.
The majestic mother and father eagle have been together for at least five years, and have successfully brought eaglets into the world each spring. This last week, however, something unexpected happened: a female intruder (or “floater”) attacked the nest. The mom and the intruder fought off-camera, and then disappeared. The floater has returned frequently to the nest but the mother has not been seen since. Experts do not know if she is hiding while she heals from her wounds or if she did not survive them. The dad has been valiantly protecting and incubating the eggs, and on Easter day, the first eaglet successfully hatched! Now, buried under a fresh wave of Colorado snow, the dad continues to defend his offspring against the larger female intruder who may wish them harm, or may be vying for the role of mate. Viewers are still anxiously hoping the mother eagle will make a miraculous appearance. Seriously, who needs Tiger King?
Birds of prey not your thing? This list of free online animal live streams will definitely fill your cuteness quota. Check out curious pandas in Edinburgh, wild badgers in Cumbria, and farm animals in the southwest of Wales.
Travel in hi-def
We know, we know, it’s not the same, but you still have to see the incredible 4k videos at thripy.com. Choose from cityscapes, museums, famous landmarks, and exotic destinations. Of course, one of our favorites is Yosemite National Park.
Go thru-hiking… virtually
Connect to the trail more directly with an app that connects to your phone’s pedometer to track your progress “on the AT”. Thru-hiking can be a social endeavor, and this app lets you compare your walk-around-the-block trek with friends, colleagues, and other hikers — all at a socially acceptable distance. And let’s face it: even in a normal year most folks don’t want to stand too close to us thru-hikers in an enclosed space anyway.
Stay in shape
While it’s an amazing feat of modern technology to take in these spectacular views from the comfort of your couch, don’t forget to keep your body moving if you want to stay in trail-ready shape.
Maintaining a regular fitness routine is helpful for everyone, but if you are planning to hit the trails the moment it is safe to do so, try integrating these indoor training exercises from REI.
Another helpful activity is to learn how to roll and stretch your muscles at home and while on a hike. Check out Rawlogy.com for tutorials and lightweight therapeutic cork balls which won’t add much weight to your pack.
Speaking of your pack, if you are really ambitious you can practice loading it and carrying it around the house. Keep those back muscles nice and strong!
If you can’t choose your own adventure, MAKE your own adventure
If you don’t have enough sunshine, store-bought is fine.
Are you drooling over your friend’s Instagram photos of her bucolic backyard, complete with lawn chairs, vegetable garden, and a faithful puppy, while you’re stuck on the basement level with one measly window? Whatever your homebase accommodations, one thing is for certain: not all quarantine conditions are the same. If you find yourself in a dimly lit spot, unexpectedly hunkering down where the sun literally doesn’t shine, try fooling your senses with this DIY project.
Speaking of crafting…
Another fruitful project during this unexpected off season is learning to MYOG: that is, Make Your Own Gear.
If you are looking to learn a new skill during this time, picking up sewing and fabricating will not only give you a creative outlet, but it will help you to utilize and repurpose materials you already have, which is critical at a time when supplies aren’t readily available and every delivery can put essential workers at risk.
What better time to plan your next adventure?
Pull out the maps, inventory your gear, and start planning that ultimate camping trip for when the restrictions are lifted. Now is a great time to clean and organize your supplies, do the necessary research, and even plan your meals. If you are interested in keeping keto on the trail, Next Mile Meals has all the information you need.
How lucky we are to have something to miss, to anticipate, and to appreciate. For now, take care of your health and know that while at times we will feel distant and disconnected, we are all participating in a crucial communal effort. Stay home, save lives, and we’ll be here to celebrate with you on the other side.
Next Mile Meals is a small, family-run business that came to life on the Pacific Crest Trail. This blog is our way of giving back to the hiking community; sharing our successes, our failures, and our learnings as we try to eat better, pack lighter, and go farther in our many outdoor adventures.