Social distancing, self-quarantines, job layoffs and a worldwide pandemic. What to do?
Escape outside for some space and fresh air.
A Colorado stay-at-home order implies exercise should be done within your own county to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. In Montezuma County, that means cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the San Juan and La Plata mountains, desert hikes in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and mountain biking at Phil’s World.
The south Sand Canyon Trailhead off County Road G has been crowded lately. To see smaller crowds, try the north trailhead off County Road N. There is a large Ancestral pueblo at the trailhead with interpretive signs.
Phil’s World is ridable. Southwest Colorado Cycling Association suggests people try out the new trailheads and parking lots off County Roads L and M to avoid groups at the main trailhead.
Some areas have been declared off-limits.
San Juan County in Colorado has announced its lands are closed to nonlocals who hoped to retreat to the backcountry. Utah’s San Juan County has issued an order banning noncounty residents from camping anywhere in the county, including on public lands. And the Bureau of Land Management has canceled all San Juan River rafting permits to comply with mandates about social distancing.
There is new trail etiquette to follow in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anyone demonstrating signs of illness, such as coughing, fever or shortness of breath should stay home and self-isolate. Traveling together to a trailhead in a vehicle also violates rules enforcing social distancing. Do not congregate at trailheads, and keep at least 6 feet apart from other hikers. The length of a typical bike is close to the recommended distance to maintain between other users, but avoid riding together in single file.
Ski areas are closed, but there has been an increase in backcountry skiing, drawing more inexperienced into avalanche country, according to local sheriffs. The influx is taxing local emergency responders who are dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.
On March 26, a snowboarder triggered an avalanche near Ophir and was caught in the debris. More than 36 search and rescue personnel responded to assist the man, who was seriously injured and was evacuated and then airlifted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction.
Less experienced backcountry skiers should stay away from 30 degree slopes. Always carry a beacon, shovel and probe when traveling in avalanche country and check conditions with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
Mesa Verde National Park has closed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has closed all playgrounds, campgrounds, camping and camping facilities, including yurts and cabins, at Colorado’s state parks as well as camping at State Wildlife Areas effective March 26 until further notice. The order includes Mancos, Lone Mesa, Ridgway and Navajo state parks. Restrooms will remain open, and visitors are advised to take soap for handwashing and alcohol-based hand sanitizers when water is not available.
The action has been taken based on the stay-at-home order from Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and the advice of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Currently, non-campground outdoor areas of parks, including trails, boat ramps, marinas and shorelines, remain open. However, CPW managers may close areas that do not allow for social distancing. This could include picnic areas, fishing piers and other more concentrated recreation areas. CPW encourages people to take local and state stay-at-home orders seriously, and limit travel time wherever possible, even for approved recreation.
The BLM and San Juan National Forest remain open except in San Juan County, where forest access by non-county residents has been banned.
U.S. Forest Service campgrounds, restrooms, cabins and fire lookout rentals, picnic sites and trash facilities are closed to the public.