Closures in the WMNF

The forest service has closed several day use areas and trailheads.

I’m at work right now so with limited internet and ability to examine this further. But I wanted everyone to benefit from this news. I will update this post as I’m able. Stay tuned.

Update: OK, so this is basically “just” the trailheads themselves. The trails, it would seem, remain open. However, parking is apparently prohibited. So if you can walk there, you can still hike. Also, it seems that a ton of shelters and camping sites within the forest are also closed. And there’s the issue that the AMC has closed its shelters already. If you’re planning on an overnight, you’re left with the option of finding your own unimproved spot to make your bed for the night. 

There is a bugaboo: the list of trailheads that are closed is pretty long. It’s not all of them, to be sure, but it’s a significant list. If you’re planning on knocking off some 4,000 footers, this almost certainly tossed a wrench into your plans. At the very least, you’ll be faced with choices of alternate starting points for several hikes. Just off the cuff, I’m noticing 19 Mile Brook and Imp are both closed, which makes access to the Carters a bit of a long walk. Lincoln Woods is closed, impacting hikes to Owl’s Head and the Bonds.

Folks, be advised that this closure order has the force of federal law, and a hefty fine up to $5,000 plus jail time. 

NH State Parks: They’re obviously operated separately from the Federal portion of the Whites, so closures are handled differently. See the NH State Parks website, and individual pages for each park, for timely updates. 

And so now, some personal thoughts on the matter. 

I was regarding the “advisory” level that the stay at home orders were at up until now as a manifestation of the saying “don’t make me make a rule”. For the time there was still a lot of snow everywhere, it was working well enough. And now it’s getting warmer, and because people aren’t heeding the spirit of that advisory, someone made a rule. So please, if you’re thinking of going out for a hike, be extra mindful of overcrowding. Know that overcrowding these days means something different. Don’t do anything that will make someone make another rule, and please encourage others to act similarly. 

What does that mean? A few weeks ago, I saw a large group of people in a couple vehicles at a trailhead, getting ready to head up the mountain. As in “more than half a dozen” and clearly more than one family. By anyone’s measure, there is no way that allows for any kind of social distancing on the trail. Remember that others might have to walk past groups like that at trail junctions, or wherever. Especially if you have younger kids who are prone, as all kids are, to run hither and yon with that sense of reckless abandon, think long and hard about your plans. It might be wiser to choose another activity. 

What else could that mean? We saw how super-easy it was for COVID-19 to hop international borders, taking mere days to end up in lands half a world away. Hop in a jet plane, that’s all it takes. Around here, hop in your car, and in a couple hours, you’re 100 miles from home. Is it wise that as many license plates on cars in New Hampshire are from places outside the state? As much as I love having guests visit, honestly, that’s potentially spreading the disease. Please think twice before getting in the car. 

Some states are loosening their restrictions, and that’s got authorities in other states fretting. If you bring an invisible “gift” with you up to the Whites, remember you’re impacting smaller communities, with fewer healthcare resources. Apart from Dartmouth-Hitchcock, once you’re north of Concord, you’re in the land of community hospitals, usually with tiny ICUs. Places where the entire building doesn’t have the number of doctors and nurses that Boston hospitals have on a single unit. If Coronavirus hits these communities beyond a minuscule number of people, they’re poorly equipped to handle the onslaught. Many of those towns have populations under a thousand, and typically that means that people wear many hats. Bob, who runs the general store, might also be on the local fire department, saving lives in his spare time. If Bob gets sick…

Early on in the crisis, a town here in the Granite State had several firefighters out on quarantine at one time, due to a suspected exposure during a call. For that town, it represented most of a shift’s firefighters, and it was a huge impact to their ability to provide for their residents. Across America, first responders are getting sick. Some of them are dying. These are people who are considered “force multipliers” in a crisis, which also means their losses have disproportional impact on a community. They’re also “essential personnel” which means they can’t work from home. When everyone else is running away from something bad, these are the people running toward it. 

So when I talk about “don’t do anything that creates a new rule”, these are some of the things the rule makers are thinking about. Give it a thought yourself, and plan accordingly. Is your plans to spend the afternoon gazing across the Whites worth it? 

As always, stay safe out there.


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