Adventure in the Time of Coronavirus

The world has changed a lot in the past week.

Last week, I commented that I didn’t think I’d be going to the mountains to hike anytime soon.

Early in the week, that was something of a “hot take.” I repeated my message and my rationale, in a calm way, on several forums and in a couple of Facebook groups, and as recently as last Tuesday, the majority (but not all – a notable exception was VFTT, one of my favortie outdoors forums) of reactions were incredibly hostile: I was blocked, sworn at, and called all kinds of names.

The tide has turned dramatically. The ATC and PCTA have come out to request that thru-hikers postpone or cancel their trips. Most ski resorts in North America have closed. Guiding companies have cancelled their upcoming trips and events. Rental vendors and outfitters like IME are closed.

Most of us are heeding the advice of public health experts and associations like Leave No Trace, the White Mountain Trail Collective, the AMC and dozens of others, to hike, walk, exercise, and enjoy the outdoors close to home.

I live on Cape Ann in Massachusetts, and spent the whole day Sunday exploring. Come with me for a virtual tour.

I started off with a quick (15-minute) drive to Ipswich to hike the dunes at Crane Beach.

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I’ve heard lots of people talking about this hike, but I thought it’d be kind of boring – just walking through the dunes, one habitat, one view.

That’s not the case at all.

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This Trustees property features 5.5 miles of trails, plus of course the famous beach. The trails traverse dunes, climb up hills, and wind through a pitch pine forest.

As you crest hills (which are hard-earned, by the way – all that sand….!), you’re treated to unbeatable ocean views.

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And that vegetation is really remarkable. The wind, the sand – and those tough little plants hold everything in place, creating a vitally important storm barrier.

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The sky is wide-open above you, too.

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These trails would definitely be brutally hot on a summer day, so this is a perfect winter, fall, or spring hike.

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After exploring the dunes and the beach itself, I headed over to Essex to check out the Warren Weld Woodland.

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This is a Greenbelt property featuring a wide variety of flora and fauna – oak, birch, red maple, beech, hemlock, and hickory trees; opossum, skunk, red fox, and all manner of amphibians.

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It’s very quiet, usually, but today there were several other groups wandering these trails.

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Fortunately, there are always nice rocks you can scramble up on to provide that crucial 6 feet of space.

After exploring the trails at Warren Weld Woodland, I wandered around my own neighborhood and beaches, racking up a total of 14 miles for the day. Granted, there was only about 700 feet of elevation gain, but any day outdoors is a day well spent.

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