Our family is well into week 3 of staying home during the outbreak, on lockdown because of the coronavirus. Our corner of the state we live in has the biggest number of COVID-19 cases, so places closed early on. We knew right away the schools would close. Many offices set up employees to work from home. Many indoor places like gyms shuttered.
Being the kind of family we are, we kept an eye on closures of natural areas. Being indoors with potentially sick people in public didn’t sound good, but what about outdoors? Soon, the national park visitor centers closed while still allowing entry. State parks closed. Local playgrounds closed.
Staying home during the outbreak: Closure after closure
It was our kids’ spring break, but we took it in stride. If everyone just stayed home for two weeks, the virus would peter out. At least, that was the message we got. With a delay of up to 14 days for a person to show symptoms of the virus, the news told us, staying home was the best thing. We love to take weekend getaways and day trips, but we had a boring spring break in the name of stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
Before long, though, not just the national park visitor centers closed — the entire parks in our area closed to entry. County parks closed. Even the little city park around the corner (which has four parking spaces and not even a restroom) locked its gates and posted a never-before-seen closed sign. Public boat launches and marinas closed after it was discovered that boaters were partying together on sandbars (as you do on the weekend during beautiful weather). (Which still doesn’t prevent people from boating if their boats are on the canals behind their houses.)
One evening after two weeks of staying home, our family ventured to the edge of the Everglades just three miles from our house. At the end of the road, there’s a levee that separates the city from the vast River of Grass. It’s the perfect place to watch the sun set over the unobstructed horizon for a few minutes. When we got there, officers in two police cars were trying to get people to leave … people who had gone around and under barricades that we didn’t know had been put in place.
So we couldn’t even watch the sun set. But we could go kayaking, right? Our nephew was home from college and would be looking for something to do besides staying home during the outbreak. We could visit our favorite out-of-the-way paddle launches and stay the recommended six feet away from everyone.
Right about the time I learned that those quiet launches were open, I saw national wildlife refuges were open, even a private freshwater spring and many beaches and golf courses were still open in other parts of the state. People were out living their best lives only an hour’s drive away. Then the governor ordered a statewide lockdown.
It was the right thing to do. But we missed our chance for some time in nature.
Trying to do the right thing
Public opinion about staying home during the outbreak, at least according to Internet forums and news reports, tends to sit in one of two boxes:
- This whole coronavirus thing is way overblown and there’s no need to shut everything down, man, and you don’t have to keep your distance from people who are healthy … people are such sheep.
- All the people who step outside their homes are morons who personify everything that’s wrong with the world and now BLOOD WILL BE ON THEIR HANDS!!!
However, our family is definitely in between. We don’t want to unwittingly spread the virus. But we also have regularly taken walks, runs, and bike rides around the neighborhood.
And we also feel there could have been a way to conscientiously take out our kayaks, practice social distancing, and enjoy the best stretch of weather we’ve experienced in months.
This spring weather has been utterly wasted.
Cabin fever is real
I totally get that “flattening the curve” and preventing sickness outweigh my yearning to get into the outdoors. That’s why the only place I’ve gone in three weeks is the grocery store. I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for me with my mild issue of not being able to go anywhere. There are big stakes here.
When you’re a family like us who’s used to going outdoors for some stress-relieving, life-enriching “green time,” though, understand our cabin fever. Know that we feel trapped. See our need to feed our wild natures just as we need to feed our bodies. Eventually, I may emotionally suffocate, if this lockdown keeps stretching on. (Right now, we’re on the hook for the month of April, which will make 7-8 weeks of social distancing for us.) We can’t underestimate the toll of the pandemic on mental health.
I don’t want to see emails like the one I got today telling me I can stay home and take a virtual trip. The popular answer to our issue is, “Hey, travelers! Just look at these videos and pictures online of places you want to go. Samesies.” Who are these people? Looking at pictures on a screen all day isn’t the same as wading into a lake or scrambling over a rock. There’s no substitute for inhaling the essence of a forest or scrunching sand between your toes. You can’t say you’ve seen a bald eagle if you only saw it online. Being an armchair traveler doesn’t do a thing for me, and honestly, probably not most people.
Also? Running/walking/biking on the suburban neighborhood asphalt doesn’t cut it, either, with parks closed.
All of this is to say that if you are a regular reader, you’re probably like us. You’re tired of staying home during the outbreak. You wish you’d never heard the word “coronavirus.” You want to day trip to your favorite watering hole. You’d love to camp under a dark sky to see the stars. Hike to a waterfall. Plan a road trip to places you’ve never explored.
But you also feel for those who are infected, who’ve seen loved ones pass away, who have to work with the public on a daily basis and put themselves in danger. Maybe you yourselves are affected. We empathize with you.
One thing is for sure: We will never take the chance to go on family adventures for granted again.
Someday soon, we all will be out there once more.