Monday Nov 28, 2022
Monday Nov 28, 2022

Call of the wild: Great outdoors is great escape in pandemic

2021 Mar 14, 12:04,
FILE - Erin Jaske and Scott Sandridge cross country ski across the Manette bridge in Bremerton, Wash., on a snowy day, in this Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, file photo. During the pandemic, people around the world sought relief from lock downs and working from home in leisure sports. (Meegan M. Reid/Kitsap Sun via AP, File)/Kitsap Sun via AP

For those venturing off the beaten path, be advised — it’s a little crowded out there.

By nature’s standards, anyway, as the great outdoors has become the great escape.

Hiking trails, parks, and other open spaces were packed in 2020 with a cooped-up population searching for fresh air during the coronavirus pandemic. Locked down, shut-in, or just fearful of crowds, people took up hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, camping, tennis, and golf — to name several — in significant numbers.

“It’s both heartening and a little bit mind-blowing to think how things are going this year,” said Richard Hodges, the Nordic director at White Pine Touring in Park City, Utah. “It’s been really fun — a lot of work, but really fun. All we’re doing is trying to get people outside to go play in the snow.”

Outdoor enthusiasts are certainly stepping outside to play in whatever environment — when pandemic restrictions permit it, of course, and in accordance with stay-at-home guidelines. But the numbers illustrate that many are heeding the call to the wild:

— 8.1 million more Americans went hiking in 2020 compared to ’19, according to a preview of an upcoming outdoor participation report from the Outdoor Foundation, the philanthropic wing of the Outdoor Industry Association.

— 7.9 million more went camping last year.

— 3.4 million more participated in freshwater fishing.

The foundation’s research also reflected a decline in inactivity for most age groups and across all income levels. There was a 52.9% surge in outdoor participation, an increase from 50.5% in 2018 and 50.7% in 2019.

The upward trend in hiking doesn’t come as a surprise to Sandra Marra, the president and CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

From nearly day one of the pandemic, a myriad of hikers have been trekking along the Appalachian Trail, which encompasses about 2,200 miles (3,540.6 kilometers), traverses through 14 states and sees about 3 million-plus visitors a year.

Word of caution before going: Check the weather reports and dress accordingly. And don’t park on someone’s property, even if the trailhead lots are full.


Hiking trails parks Outdoor enthusiasts
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