Recreating Responsibly : Road Tripping Reflection

Image of a morning skyline in a rural farming community. The sky is grey with a light yellow and orange sunlight coming up at the horizon line.

Let’s face it, it’s hard to keep a hiker from their next adventure. We pour over maps, pick our trails, make our plans and lists and then review everything again and again. It’s the fuel to our proverbial fires. As a hiker I care deeply about the lands and communities that I travel through when I’m hiking. Often those places are remote, which is why I go there in the first place.

That also means that resources may be scarce and that my presence changes the land and the communities by just showing up. So when the global pandemic hit the U.S. earlier this year, I watched as my planned hiking trips one by one dropped from my calendar. The call was to stay at home. As a member of a family that has lived the impacts of the polio epidemic first hand, I knew what I needed to do personally. Stay home.

I understood that our emergency and healthcare systems were woefully under prepared for what was to come. I understood that the places where I recreate are often remote meaning that should I become injured, even in so-called good times, help would not be easy to come by. I understood that my presence could unknowingly help to spread the virus if I was one of the “lucky” ones who was infected, but showed no or minor symptoms. My choice with this knowledge was the same. Stay home.

Then came my furlough from work. I had all the time on my hands to hike, but I still chose the same course. Stay home.

In the past month or so Minnesota lifted its stay at home orders. Still I waited. I watched the flood of people who, released from their home captivity, headed to the state’s beautiful parks. The beloved North Shore being the destination of choice for all the reasons I too spend time there every year. I reflected on my planned spring trip to work on my goal of hiking in all of Minnesota’s State Parks. Last summer had taken me to the northwest portion of the state and revealed some beautiful parks I would have never considered if not for my goal. This year’s trip, over seven days, would have taken me to the southwest portion of the state, far from the reported crowds on the North Shore. It’s not a part of the state you visit in the late summer if you’ve got any real sense. It’s known for being hot, buggy and the peak of tornado season.

I got out my maps. I checked availability of campgrounds. I considered if I could complete the entire trip with just two or three gas stops. No contact with anyone unless absolutely necessary. Would the trails be difficult and put me in danger of injury? I poured over the park maps and topographic maps. What were my options should I get sick on the road for medical care? I consulted with my family and a few close friends. In the end I took a leap of faith and booked nine days on the road. Two parks a day. A potential of 19 total parks to hike. I told myself I’d cancel again if anything warranted. My health, resources in the area or anything else that was off and I’d bail. Like every trip before I gave myself permission to have a “out” at any point leading up to or on my adventure.

Here’s the thing. Having that adventure sitting there in front of me reminded me what it is that brings me joy. I knew I’d have time to process all the changes that 2020 has brought and continues to bring while putting one foot in front of the other on trails I’d not experienced before. I know that my choice to move forward with the trip will anger, disappoint or inspire someone. Just like everything we do in life, we each get to hike our own hike. All I can hope is that I moved through my hikes in a way that was as respectful of the places I visited and that I left as little trace of my presence as possible.

Over the coming posts I’ll share how I managed the trip and what I found along the way.

May you too find your own adventure while recreating responsibly.

Resources for Responsible Recreation

Next Post Preview: What does it look like to prep for a trip where you’re not going to interact with anyone if at all possible?


Photo of a group of hikers on a sunny day in a field heading towards a wooded area. The photographer has taken the photo from behind the group.

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