For John and I, the outdoors defined our youth. For me, it was family outings to parks and walks in nature.
For John, it was camping and backpacking with the Boy Scouts and being a camp counselor at Camp La-No-Che.
But even in our youngest years, we were encouraged to play outside daily. The only boundaries were time and how far the parents would let us roam.
I caught tadpoles in a pond and raised them in a pickle jar. John rode his bike to the woods and brought home snakes.
By spending our formative years in nature, we learned about the web of life on this planet and how it is all interconnected.
This was decades before “globalization” or cheap air travel were a thing.
So when we first heard about the outbreak in China, we knew it would be here eventually. And now it is.
As sporting events, conferences, schools, and even attractions – Disney World foremost among them – are closing down across Florida, what is a family to do?
Just because your Spring Break plans are shut down doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy winter turning to spring across Florida.
On a short hike last week, I paid careful attention to our surroundings. It’s warming up, so the snakes are out sunning. Lizards are everywhere.
It’s what we can’t see, this invisible danger, that now ups the risk of lingering in public places around other people. No amount of attention will reveal it to you.
The new buzzword is “social isolation.” Stay away from other people.
Where better to do that than in the outdoors?
By being observant, you can still enjoy outdoor recreation while minimizing your contact with others.
Launch your kayak, ride your bike, or take a hike on trails that tend to be less busy than others. Go searching, as we did, for new places to explore.
Our counties have extensive natural lands, state forests, and WMAs that see minimal visitors compared to popular state parks.
Choose times that aren’t so busy: early and late in the day.
Bring your own water. Avoid public water fountains and restrooms if you can.
When nature calls, ladies, a bandana is what us backpackers use in lieu of that toilet paper that’s vanishing off the shelves right now.
Of course, that only goes for number one. Keep that bandana (or washrag) in it its own bag, rinse it when you can, and wash it afterwards with the laundry at home.
Avoid touching surfaces with your hands that others might touch: railings, gates, stiles, door handles, picnic tables.
If you must touch something, sanitize your hands immediately.
You can always put your own tablecloth on the picnic table, as my parents used to do when we had a picnic.
Download a map before you leave home or use your phone to take a picture of a map on a kiosk instead of opening the little box to grab a map.
Keep your distance from others who didn’t come along with you. Group hikes are not a great idea right now.
If you go camping, stick with backcountry sites and use your tent, not shelters. But check ahead. Not all public lands are allowing you to camp.
Shared bathhouse facilities at public campgrounds have lots of surfaces you need to avoid touching. They also put you in proximity of a lot of people.
So National Parks, Florida State Forests, and Florida State Parks have closed their campsites, including designated campsites along the Florida Trail on the Cross Florida Greenway.
Water Management Districts have sent their employees home, so you may not be able to reach anyone about a permit.
Most importantly, if you aren’t well, stay home.
Otherwise, pack the family up and go for a walk. Go local. Breathe easy in nature.
Your mind and body will thank you.