Coronavirus Update: Busy Mountains!

Hey everyone. Thanks for checking in. Days pass, we learn a little more, and expectations change a bit. New Hampshire is ramping up its preparations, on the expectation that “peak Corona” should be here in a couple weeks. When that happens, first responders will be busy, if not under quarantine or outright sick with the flu, COVID, or both. So bear that in mind when you plan your excursions. As I’ve mentioned, now isn’t the time to go for worldwide Instagram fame. Take it slow and easy. And safe.

One of the things that’s been sticking in my mind is asymptomatic carriers. Unlike seasonal flu, which typically rears its ugly head within a day or so of contracting it, Coronavirus seems to linger in a host for several days. That means that people can be infecting others long before they show signs. More than ever, it’s prudent to be mindful of how close people get. Consider that supermarkets are now holding “senior hour”, and limiting the number of people they let in the store. No doubt that adversely impacts their bottom line, so if they’re willing to give up sales, something pretty big and very serious is driving those decisions.

Reason #1 to avoid Monadnock. It’s swamped. Having the reputation of being one of the most climbed mountains in the world, who can be surprised that social distancing just isn’t happening, despite what everyone is saying? And if people are indeed stepping off the trail to allow the requisite six feet of distance, that’s a ton of trail erosion. I won’t be surprised if this one gets closed by the governor. (But then, which will be the next mountain to get all the attention from out of state hikers?)

Pawtuckaway State Park is getting a lot of “love” right now, too, and the governor is being asked to formally close the park. As close as it is to people driving up from Massachusetts, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if this actually happens.

Near and dear to my heart, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy has formally asked the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service to shutter the AT. On one hand, I get it. Not the least, social distancing in a shelter just ain’t gonna happen, not with how hikers will seemingly gleefully jam themselves in like sardines, especially if it’s pouring with rain. And hikers can have their impacts on trail towns, especially the smaller ones that have the least resources to deal with problems. But at the same time, I’m sure there are folks trying to hammer out their dream of a thru-hike, and it’ll hurt tremendously if they have to cut it short. The cottage businesses along the trail are already hurting from seeing the 2020 thru-hike season completely evaporate. No winners there.

Union Leader op-ed about old New Hampshire roads. Might be a good source of inspiration if you’re taking the governor’s Home Hike Challenge. I’ve long been amazed at how far a rock wall can extend. Seriously, next time you’re driving down a wooded road, and see an old rock wall, check your odometer. I’ve seen some where the distance is better expressed in miles rather than yards. And as is noted, those rock walls can be the home of a bevy of nature, like insects, reptiles, and wildflowers, all waiting to be discovered. Bring your iNaturalist app and see what you can find!

Home Hike Challenge in Manchester. If you’ve not heard, Chris Sununu is asking everyone to try and keep closer to home while getting fresh air. Post to social media with the Home Hike Challenge hashtag. Anecdotally, I heard from a co-worker that the Auburn (east) side of Lake Massabesic is less popular, so you might find some quietude there, while having an easier time with the social distancing thing.

I haven’t heard anything from or about the Lakes Region at this point. However, knowing there are some popular trails out there (Red Hill comes immediately to mind, as well as Mt Shaw and Mt Roberts) I can only imagine that anything that has a fine view of the lakes is going to be swamped. If anyone has reliable info, please leave a note in the comments section so everyone can share in the knowledge.

Also, Tuckerman’s Ravine has a formal closure, and the USFS has closed all toilet facilities, as well as several recreation areas.

State-run rest stops are closed. Note that the facilities at the Hooksett Rest Area are run by a private vendor (namely The Common Man) so those are, as far as I know right now, still open. Be prepared in your travels for this to change. Remember what your mom always told you about things you do before getting in the car. *grin*

Folks, we still live in interesting times. I posted the other day about my hike up Mt Hedgehog. It wasn’t “jam packed” per se, but the parking lot was indeed full when I got back. I’m using this time to knock off the redlining stuff that might be more out of the way, hoping to avoid the crowds. You should, too. I don’t necessarily need a glamorous summit view. And as the snow cover is steadily disappearing, it’s time again to start looking nearer to the ground for interesting things. I don’t know about your garden, but my lilies are starting to poke up again, which means wildflower season is on its way.

A walk in the woods is its own reward, and you don’t need to congregate with everyone else at the more popular destinations. If you’re intent on hiking the Whites, this is the time to look at your guidebooks, and find those trails that are away from the crowds. If it doesn’t directly access a mountain peak and the drive to get there is a little longer, chances are it’ll fit the bill. If you’re content with a state park or “less”, check the Forest Society’s webpage for some ideas. And if a guidebook or a website notes that “this hike is a classic” or “this one is popular, and for good reason” or something like that, maybe leave that one for another day. Those trails will wait.

As always, stay safe out there.

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