Back on the trail

Safe practices for hiking during a pandemic

Following careful deliberation and coordination with the county, Solano Land Trust is delighted to welcome the public back to Rush Ranch, Lynch Canyon, and Jepson Prairie. Although we believe the benefits to the community outweigh the risks, the risks are real. Anyone can spread this virus. Thankfully, all of us can take measures to make transmissions less likely.

Social distancing remains key when exploring our open spaces: visit alone or in small numbers; maintain six feet from other hikers; and avoid “passive recreation,” such as picnicking, in one area for a prolonged duration of time. And always: stay home if you feel sick!

Remember that we can make this work and be friendly. The foe is the virus, not people. Wave hello, nod good day, strike up a conversation. Just skip the handshakes and follow these four guidelines:

1. Pack hand sanitizer and a mask. For hikers today, COVID-19 exposure is another risk to pack and prepare for—just like sun, insects, or scrapes and scratches. Simply add a face mask and hand sanitizer to your list of outdoor essentials.

2. Use caution around common surfaces. Picnic areas and exhibits remain closed, so opportunities for transmitting the virus by contacting surfaces touched by others are limited mostly to the cattle gates, the display case for maps, and the iron ranger. Before touching the gates, consider temporarily gloving your hand (even with the sleeve of your shirt). If not, douse your hand with hand sanitizer afterward, and refrain from touching your face. You can avoid touching display cases by downloading trail map PDFs on your phone such as these for Rush Ranch and Lynch Canyon.

3. Use caution when passing other hikers. If possible, step aside for passing hikers. However, with high grasses and thick brush along trails, hikers stepping aside to make a six-foot buffer zone can be exposed to ticks or destroy vegetation. Always hike single file and keep your mask handy so that you can wear it when others approach. If you are a cyclist passing others, call out to them earlier than normal so they can mask up or make room.

4. Don’t linger in bathrooms or parking lots. The bathrooms and parking lots remain areas of high concern. With the bathroom, take the same sanitary precautions you always would, only more so, but understand that the virus can linger here for hours. Use hand sanitizer and try to use facilities on the way out rather than in. When parking, look for spaces apart from other cars and limit your time outside your vehicle. If you do a cooldown or warmup stretch, do it inside the park.

When we’re out enjoying nature and improving our health, let us consider the heath of others too, and continue to do our part to flatten the curve.

Photos by Bud Turner and Joe Hoberg.