Monday, June 29, 2020

Pandemic 2020: Re-emerging, Getting Outdoors, and Recreating Responsibly

 With national parks and forests, state parks, and city parks closed for a couple months this spring, many of us urban dwellers were pining to get outdoors for real. Although things started reopening in May, I decided to re-emerge even more gradually.

While Washington was in lockdown for over 2 months, I did a lot of walking/exploring close to home. I didn't fill up my car gas tank from late March to late May. But in June, well, Juneuary weather or not, I finally started to stray farther afield.

It has been beyond wonderful to see some favorite places/trails again and explore a few new places, while striving to recreate responsibly (physical distancing as much as possible and masking up around others). And honestly, these outings are a shred of normalcy in these strange days. 

The First Escape from Seattle
My first foray outside the Seattle city limits in over 3 months was a trip to the Issaquah Alps on a rainy, stormy (thunder and lightning) morning. With the sometimes scary weather (one bolt of lightning was so close it sounded like three gunshots in quick succession overhead), we only saw a couple other joggers in two hours on the trail.

The vivid spring green was a welcome dose of Vitamin N.

The Birds and Me in the Rain
A week later I took a solo trip up to the Skagit River Delta for another walk in a driving rain. The marshy river delta was rich green with late spring, and I walked along levees in solitude, passing a few birds hunkered down (a great blue heron, swallows, and red-winged blackbirds are what I could identify).

I reveled in the escape from traffic noises and the wide open, rain-soaked space.  An occasional distraction were a few jets from nearby Naval Air Station Whidbey Island passing overhead.

The Scenic Drive
About a week later I drove even farther north to Bellingham to take my kayak for repairs. On the scenic drive home, I stopped for a hike off lovely Chuckanut Drive that winds along the sea. 

This bluebird day was much needed. The view shown below is reason #237 why I love living in my home state. I also stopped at Snow Goose Produce on the way home for fresh wild, local shrimp.

The Getaway
Just a couple days later, my first overnight away from Seattle since late December was way overdue. I returned to Port Townsend, where I walked in the woods with friends and helped my aunt celebrate her birthday (all outdoors of course). Although Anderson Lake south of Port Townsend is closed, I snuck in a 30-minute walk skirting the south lake shoreline.

Around Port Townsend, it was quieter than it would normally be nearing peak tourist season. My lodging for the night was the historic and comfortable Palace Hotel on Water Street, where I had a view of the Keystone ferry to Whidbey Island skimming across the Salish Sea outside my window. I brought greens from my garden and other provisions to share with my aunt in her back yard rather than trying to dine out.

There were definitely people around town, but it wasn't crowded by any means. Sunday morning, however, when I stopped for tea and a late breakfast from Cafe Tenby (formerly Pippa's Real Tea), a line gathered outside. And on the drive back to Seattle Sunday evening, there was definitely a wait for the ferry.

The Real Deal
And finally, for the first time since...last fall, a real hike this past weekend. We strayed farther east up the I-90 corridor toward Snoqualmie Pass for a 2,300-foot grind upward through thick, mossy second-growth forest into sub-alpine old-growth forest with raindrop-kissed wildflowers.

As we ascended higher through the rain, the foggy/misty forest was especially magical. In the background, silhouettes of trees hovered like benign ghosts.

When we came to a dicey snow bridge crossing an avalanche gully, we decided to call it a day and head back down. It was 4.5 hours of hiking, with almost 5,000 feet of elevation gain and loss, which was fine for three rusty hikers.

Thankfully the rain kept the crowds down on the trail, and most everyone we passed was thoughtful about distancing. (It was the seventh weekend in a row here with rain, which a true Mossback doesn't mind.)

So it's not completely back to normal, but it's good to be back outdoors. Next up, a great way to get outside and distance: kayaking.

Always trying to get the shot.
How about you? Are you getting out and being/feeling safe?

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