Robins and bluebirds have arrived. By mid-day the air is warmish, and in no time the first dandelions will appear. In spite of what is happening in the human world, Mother Nature forges ahead as spring arrives. In Wyoming, spring is always a mixed bag with snow one day, rain the next and sunshine in the mix. Still, spring is in the air and the outdoors is calling.
Getting outside is still an option in spite of the need for social distancing. Just remember the mantra: keep at least six feet from people. For an outdoor reference, it is about the wingspan of a turkey vulture. That distance is the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect you from Covid-19. What better way to avoid people than to get outdoors where there are few people?
The CDC website doesn’t offer specific advice on outdoor activities such as hiking and biking. Personnel with the Wyoming Department of Health also offered no specific information on such activities and there are no recommendations on their website.
David Wiens, Executive Director of the International Mountain Bicycling Association, offered advice in a press release for the IMBA organization. He acknowledged that getting out on trails is tremendously valuable. The key, though, is to keep your distance and avoid going out altogether if you’re feeling ill. Wiens advices against group rides but, instead riding alone or only in very small groups.
“Keep your distance from other recreationists,” he said. “It also helps to enjoy trails close to home to minimize the risks associated with car travel.”
There are numerous trail opportunities in and near Laramie. The Schoolyard mountain bike trails offer excellent opportunity close to town. A map of the trails is available on the Laramie BikeNet website (https://www.laramiebikenet.org/schoolyard.html).
Glendo and Curt Gowdy State Parks are open, although indoor spaces such as visitor centers, headquarters and retail locations are closed to visitors. Trail conditions at both parks vary with most routes remaining too muddy for biking but fine for hiking.
Those having an itch to toss a line for some early season open water angling can head to the Laramie River or, for a longer drive, the North Platte River. Ice still lingers on ponds and lakes. Larry Struempf recently spent about an hour out on the Laramie River with his three children. He said they caught their fish dinner in no time and it was easy to keep that social distance since they were the only ones on the river.
There is also plenty of snow both on Pole Mountain and in the Snowy Range. However, all developed recreation sites are closed or will close soon. This includes the Tie City and Happy Jack trailheads as well as the Albany, Chimney Park, Corner Mountain and Green Rock trailheads. Aaron Voos, public affairs specialist for the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, stresses that the National Forest is open but maintaining of parking lots will cease and all toilets and other facilities will be closed.
Grooming on the Nordic ski trails as well as packing on the multi-use trails has ended for the season. While the trails are open to users the route will only be user-packed.
No matter the mode or location, if you see others and need to pass, communicate from a distance about how to proceed. To keep the minimum six feet of separation one person may need to move off the trail to let the other pass.
Paul Gritten, non-motorized trail coordinator with Wyoming State Parks, said getting outside can be extremely therapeutic in these troubling times.
“With so much doom and gloom in the news, getting out and being physically active can truly help reduce stress,” Gritten said. “It offers a chance to get your mind off of what is going on, and just enjoy being outdoors.”
There is no question this is a fluid and evolving situation. Keep alert to any additional advice from the CDC on outdoor recreation precautions. Based on current guidelines, getting outside is safe if there are no other humans around. If on a trail or pathway where others are also enjoying the outdoors, just communicate from a distance to ensure that six feet of separation is maintained.
Changes at southeast Wyoming outdoor facilities:
• While the Medicine Bow National Forest, as with all National Forests, is open, trailhead parking lots are not being maintained; toilets and other facilities are closed.
• Grooming of the trails at Happy Jack Recreation Area has ended for the season.
• Wyoming State Parks are open for business. Camping, hiking and biking are allowed and users must pay the entry fee using the fee canister at the entrance.
Recommendations for trail users:
• Follow CDC’s guidance on personal hygiene prior to heading to trails: wash hands, carry hand sanitizer, do not use trails if you have symptoms and cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
• Maintain a distance of six feet from other people. Practice it so you know what it looks like. It is about the wingspan of a soaring turkey vulture.
• Warn other trail users of your presence and communicate if you need to pass. If being passed, step off trails to allow proper separation distance.
• Note that public restrooms could be closed – time your needs accordingly.