Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Please don't come here

I live in a resort town. There are always tourists here.  In the winter they come for the skiing; in the summer they flock to the famous national park down the road.  It gets so busy that most locals avoid the popular trails and viewpoints.

But we are still a small community, as are most towns outside of national parks.  We have limited hospital beds and ventilators.  The virus cases that we have here seem to have come from people traveling and bringing it back.  The hospitals can't absorb a high volume of patients.

I went up to the park.  I walked on the closed road, staying far away from others.  Many people were practicing social distance, hiking and biking in family groups.  But there were lots of out of state license plates.  People were parking close together and chatting with others only a couple feet apart.  I watched somebody use a stranger's phone to take their picture and then hand it back.  People were going in and out of the restrooms, touching everything.

Please don't come here right now.   Enjoy your own area and your own outdoor spaces if you can.  The mountains will be here for you in the future.  Please stay away.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Social distancing status: expert

When I read about how people are saying their lives have changed drastically and how devastated they are that they have to practice social distancing, I have to wonder:  is there something wrong with me?

Was anyone else a "social distancer" before there was a word for it?

I like wide open spaces with no people in them.  If there are people rummaging around in their cars getting ready when I arrive at a trailhead, I hurry to get on the trail so I don't have to walk awkwardly behind them or attempt to pass.  I've been known to abandon a hike when there are "too many cars" at the trailhead, and go somewhere else.  I dream of working from home instead of going to the office.  My ideal snowboarding day would be a chair lift all to myself.

I rarely go out to restaurants, mostly to save money but also because I don't live very close to any (if I could walk or bike to one I might).  I like being at my house; it's cozy and there are sweet cats there.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not a Billy No Mates (a term I learned from some British people on a trek in Nepal; it means someone with no friends). I have a small group of friends: they are mostly the kind of people who want to go for hikes instead of to coffee shops or bars.  They also understand the need for alone time.

If nothing else, this virus has shown me once again how different people are.  Where I live, there is a vocal majority that insists it's "just a cold" or "a conspiracy" and refuses to change habits, day drinking at the bars and proclaiming that because schools are closed they are still going to take their kids everywhere in the community.  Then there are the usual TP hoarders.  Interspersed (but not too close, 6 feet away please) are the people more like me: cautious but not panicky, using this time to get out in the woods and enjoy the solitude.

Are you a social distancer or more of an extrovert? Have you changed your routine at all? Please stay healthy, everyone.

P.S.  If you are in danger of losing your job or getting sick, that's a whole different story and as someone who has been unemployed/furloughed before, I'm empathetic! What I'm talking about here is having to stay home more...which to me is not a hardship.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020


"What a drag it is getting old," the Rolling Stones sang, and yes it can be.  There's not a lot to recommend it as a process.  Gray hair, aches and pains, feeling invisible, having some limits where you used to be limitless.  It's easy to fall into the self pity trap about all this.  But this isn't very productive, and it dishonors those who died young and didn't get the gift of all these years.  It's better to be grateful.

"This job used to be more fun," some of us old-timers are heard to say, and it's true.  The temporary employees I supervise now seem less happy, more stressed out than we used to be when we were in their shoes.  Back then, we didn't try to have it all, like people now want to: we knew houses and expensive vehicles were out of our reach, so we didn't worry about them.  We floated around the country like a gypsy tribe, working at whatever forest or park where we could get a job, and traveled, couch surfed, or worked somewhere else in the winters.  At work, there was minimal paperwork, no online training, fewer regulations. 

We had no social media, no "influencers" or "internet models" to make us feel inadequate if we didn't look perfect.  There were no filters on pictures; what you saw in the photo was what you looked like for real. You could be as in touch as you wanted to be, or not.  Sometimes a letter would come in the mail from a long lost friend; this was exciting.  You navigated with maps and occasionally some word of mouth; secret spots stayed secret and rarely got ruined.  I got to see some amazing places with nobody in them; now those lakes and mountains are overrun on most days.

When we went on fires, people didn't sit hunched over their phones during lunch breaks. I remember  discussing literature on a nameless hill, everybody examining the books people had brought. We built creative furniture out of fire hose and limbs we cut.  People made art projects out of paracord and spent up to three weeks in the woods with no news media stories.  Mostly we were out of touch with the outside world; we left it and its problems behind.

I know this sounds like the nostalgic musings of an older person about "the good old days."  It's true that not everything was great, and that some of the advances in technology since then have made things safer and more convenient.  But these things have also brought more worries and pressures with them.  I'm glad I didn't have those.  I might be vintage, but I have had the gift of some amazing times that are gone for good.
Cameron reads a women's magazine while Russ takes a break from paracord; homemade pullup bar in the background, somewhere on a fire in Alaska, back in the day.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Lessons from a cat

1.  Eat when you're hungry and walk away when you're full.

2. Naps are essential.

3. Investigate everything.  Curiosity can pay off.

4.  When in doubt, look cute. Also do this if you did something wrong.

5.  Stay away from people who don't like you.

6.  There's always room for treats in your diet.

7.  Only cuddle if you feel like it.

8.  Being sweet will get you a lot in return.

9.  Run around a lot on some days, conserve energy on others.

10. Occasionally keep them guessing where you are and what you're doing. They'll appreciate you more.