I imagined people touching the same stair railings and wet rocks, and being forced to be too close at some of Kentucky's most beautiful vistas and waterfalls. Pristine wilderness spoiled by a pandemic, what an odd juxtaposition. No way Joe Biker. Too many people, too little trail. With COVID-19 concerns we were left with two choices, walk an extra 6 miles on a dirt road to get to the less popular 6.5 mile hike we had planned, or leave and find someplace else even less, I guess, desirable. If only we had packed extra PB&Js and Luna bars. If only we brought some bikes to ride past the gate. Deflated, underprepared for a 12+ mile hike, we chose to leave.
Only 2 other cars lined the road at the trailhead, both 4-Runners, which made me smile. We put on our boots and fixed the scarves we brought to pull up before passing others. Along with snacks, we packed hand sanitizer and wipes in our bags. We wore gloves. I tried my best to hike on the slippery mossy rocks without touching trees or common surfaces others may have touched. Then tried not to touch my face when my nose got runny in the low 40 degree temps. It's hard. I'm glad we planned. We only passed 3 other families or couples on the entire route. Thankfully everyone yielded and afforded others a wide berth. A mile or so in, my shoulders relaxed. I sighed. My spouse pointed out a giant bolder smothered in day glow green moss. I looked up and squinted in the sun. With the smush of our boots in the mud and the gurgle of the adjacent creek, we finally found the sense of peace and normalcy we sought. And for three hours, it was sublime.TIPS FOR SOCIAL DISTANCE HIKING
1) Abide by local laws regarding travel restrictions.
2) Find the most out of way trail you can.
3) Hike very early or very late. Midday is the most crowded time of day.
4) Hike alone or only with people you live with. If necessary, split in pairs which makes it easier to pass on a trail.
5) Have a 2nd or 3rd choice in case your first trail head feels uncomfortable.
6) Be self supporting. Pack more food, water, clothes and first aid than usual.
7) Wear gloves and something to pull up over nose, mouth and ears.
8) Don't touch common surfaces like railings, rocks, trees, benches and picnic tables.
9) Pack hand sanitizer and wipes and keep them easily accessible.
10) Yield to others and give them a wide berth.
11) Don't crowd vistas. Enjoy your time and move on.
12) Keep your dog and children in check.
13) Pack food and drink for the trip to and from your trail to limit public stops.
14) Wear gloves and wipe down gas pumps if you need to stop for fuel.
15) Stay away from public restrooms. Bring your own trail TP.