“How long?” is the Question Du Jour on many minds these days. That’s especially true for hikers and outdoor lovers as spring unfolds. Wildflowers bloom. Weather warms. Mountains beckon.
Balancing civil liberties with public health concerns is quite the tightrope walk. But closing state and national parks?! Seriously?
Most hikers and nature lovers I know don’t do The Great Outdoors to hang with the herd. They want solitude and serenity. Not a crowd.
When adventuring in The Great Outdoors, we go out of our way to ‘fly solo’ whenever possible. We hit the high country. The back country. The boondocks. The middle of nowhere.
Forget six feet. We’re good with 600 yards. Even better: 6 miles or more from the nearest soul or sole.
We’ve been “practicing social distancing” on the trail before social distancing was a thing. For decades. Not because anyone told us to. Or issued a mandate. We ‘distance’ because we choose to. Always have. (This doesn’t just happen. There’s a strategy involved. If interested, drop a comment for details.)
So, keeping “best practices” and personal responsibility in mind, here are 5 reasons why state and national parks need to re-open, pronto:
- People are getting antsy. You can’t keep responsible outdoor lovers cooped up indoors indefinitely without courting a revolt.
- Hiking and spending time outdoors may also be linked to reducing depression and cancer and increasing the strength of our natural immunities.
- According to the American Hiking Society, physical benefits of hiking include lowering your risk for heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. As a weight-bearing exercise, hiking and walking can also help reverse the negative effects of osteoporosis and arthritis.
- Increased cognitive benefits of hiking and walking include working memory performance, reducing anxiety and other mood disorders, boosting creativity, and strengthening social ties.
- Increased happiness levels and an improved sense of well-being and peace.
All of the above are in short supply for many at present. Additionally, park entrance fees can be handled on-line. Digital passes don’t require any person-to-person contact. Crowded parking lots? Just cone off every other space. But eliminating access to hiking and outdoor recreation as part of a Stay Home order makes zero sense.
In fact, choosing to get outside may be just what the doctor ordered right now. Some say that shutdowns may even be deadlier than the coronavirus. Dr. Phil McGraw recently noted, among other things, that “you actually destroy more lives than you do by letting them go out and protect themselves and opt into their lives to fight for what they believe in.”
When it comes to maintaining and boosting mental and physical health, getting outside is a boon. So let’s open up our parks and wild places. The sooner, the better. Especially when the mountains are calling.