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Old 04-04-2020, 11:17 AM
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Is it foolish for me to go out hiking?


Is it foolish for me to go out hiking?

I love trail hiking at local parks. Before and during the pandemic, I've been going once or twice a week, to parks in my county or the next, doing 3 to 7 miles of hilly trails. This is permissible under our state's Stay at Home order, specifically called out as an "Essential Activity". Broadly in life, hiking is the most healthy thing I do, and my favorite.

But I'm growing nervous about it. Parks are becoming weirdly crowded with people who are new to hiking and new to the park, sometimes needing directions and often spread out over the trail so I have to go into the woods to get around them at a safe distance. This past week a group of 9 assembled near me before setting out. Parking lots are often full. There's always the possibility I'll have a mishap driving there or hiking, and will need emergency help of some kind, exposing myself and others to risk.

I turn 63 next month and have COPD. I'm also male and hypertensive, which have sometimes been reported as risk factors (though both are debatable).

What do the Dopers think? Which dominates, the risk or the benefit?
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Old 04-04-2020, 11:34 AM
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Can you find anyplace that's less likely to be crowded?
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Old 04-04-2020, 11:40 AM
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I like to hike and I think that is your best exercise choice right now. So stick with it!

But if you know your local trails well, maybe stick to the less popular trails or parks. Or hike on streets or country roads.

There are a lot more people out than usual, that is true. Maybe on a country road or street you can see them coming better and keep distance. Or some parks have wider trails as well, wider than typical single track.
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Old 04-04-2020, 11:41 AM
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Is there a shelter in place/stay at home order in effect where you live? If there is and you're following those guidelines, feel free to hit the trails. In my county hiking is allowed--before the order I was out on the trail 2-3 times a week. But like you, I'm reluctant to brave the new crowds who don't seem to get the social distancing thing. So for now I stick to hiking on the sidewalk around the 'hood, which is a very poor substitute indeed.
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Old 04-04-2020, 11:56 AM
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Our local bike trails have been mobbed. For cycling, I am finding the roads far less crowded, which is opposite of usual. As you say, there are many newbs on the trails requiring lots of patience.

I would say keep hiking as the benefits likely outweigh the risks. But definitely avoid people as much as possible, especially given any chronic conditions. And avoid taking unnecessary risks, as you say, to avoid injury. Hiking itself is not usually risky, but don't push your luck.
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Old 04-04-2020, 12:02 PM
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Parks are becoming weirdly crowded with people who are new to hiking and new to the park, sometimes needing directions and often spread out over the trail so I have to go into the woods to get around them at a safe distance. This past week a group of 9 assembled near me before setting out. Parking lots are often full. There's always the possibility I'll have a mishap driving there or hiking, and will need emergency help of some kind, exposing myself and others to risk.

I turn 63 next month and have COPD.
You should probably stay home. You have two confirmed risk factors there. Furthermore you can't count on other people to use common sense and stay away.

Two days ago I went grocery shopping and people had to line up outside the store because the security guard didn't want the store to be too crowded. There were lines showing six foot spacing that many people ignored (they ignored these things at the checkout as well). Furthermore some people didn't understand instructions and/or had not heard of the precautions (literacy, language barriers, hearing impairments... whatever the reason, the person behind me, wearing a mask, thought she should walk three feet behind me).
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Old 04-04-2020, 12:10 PM
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There's a popular park trail near my house. I go in the early morning hours (~7:30) because I have found that almost no one is there but me at that time. Which is risky too, mind you. But I guess I'd rather take my chances on getting mugged than getting infected.
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Old 04-04-2020, 12:20 PM
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I found the park near my home overly crowded, but walking along the roads has been fine. So I'm just walking around my neighborhood. Maybe you can find a pleasant suburban neighborhood to "hike" in without the crowds?
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Old 04-04-2020, 12:26 PM
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Find a place with wide trails and you're probably fine. If you see passersby just steer as clear as you can from them. Wearing a mask or bandana (perfectly natural on a trail) would probably be a good idea as well.
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Old 04-04-2020, 12:33 PM
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You should probably stay home. You have two confirmed risk factors there. Furthermore you can't count on other people to use common sense and stay away.
Depends where you are. I'm not hiking, but I'm walking 45 minutes a day, and people I meet on the streets have been universally good about leaving space when our paths cross. It helps that with almost no traffic you can go into the street with minimal risk.
At Costco and the supermarket, which is the only other places I go people are leaving space. But we've been doing this for a while now, and are getting good at it.
I'm 68, but I figure that if I return from my walk (done at NY speeds) and am not short of breath I'm okay. I also want my lungs and body in general to be in as good shape as possible in case I come down with it. I figure the risk is minimal.
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Old 04-04-2020, 01:12 PM
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Shit, being alive is risky. You could slip in the shower, hit your head on the floor, and kill yourself that way.

What I *would* avoid is areas where you know there are going to be large crowds and limited space, but if you know of an area where you can be out in the open, I would think some fresh air would be good, for physical and mental health. Just don't sprain an ankle or get a contusion: the last place you want to be now is at a hospital getting treated for an injury.
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Old 04-04-2020, 02:19 PM
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I recommend a six-foot walking stick. Apply as needed.
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Old 04-04-2020, 02:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Napier View Post
I turn 63 next month and have COPD. I'm also male and hypertensive, which have sometimes been reported as risk factors (though both are debatable).

What do the Dopers think? Which dominates, the risk or the benefit?
While the likelihood that you are going to be in close contact with people for long enough to get significant exposure, you have several factors that put you in the at-risk category (especially COPD). But the real concern, especially at your age, is that you may suffer an incidental injury (sprained or broken ankle, snake bite, falling limb, et cetera) that may send you to the emergency room, and at this point I would assume any ER visit comes with a substantial chance of being exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. So, while it is smart and healthy to get some time outside in sunlight and fresh air, both for your mental health and to stimulate your immune system, I would encourage you to select activities with a low potential for injury (walking on flat land or pavement, some kind of non-risky isometric exercises or jumping rope in the home, et cetera) rather than hiking outdoors. Of course, you are an adult and free to do what you wish, but recognize that should you get injured and require EMS you are not only putting yourself at risk but also taking away resources whether they are otherwise desperately needed.

Whatever you do, please be sensible and cautious. You don't even want to get into a minor car accident or slip and fall in the bathroom right now.

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Old 04-04-2020, 02:59 PM
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Starting out in the early morning when there is enough light to see but very few other hikers sounds like a good solution.
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Old 04-04-2020, 03:04 PM
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Around here, all hiking trails are mobbed during the day. You have to find some hidden gems to get solitude. We go early, early in the morning for our trail runs and get back to the car by 9:00. Even that is getting a bit more crowded now.
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Old 04-04-2020, 03:28 PM
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While the likelihood that you are going to be in close contact with people for long enough to get significant exposure, you have several factors that put you in the at-risk category (especially COPD). But the real concern, especially at your age, is that you may suffer an incidental injury (sprained or broken ankle, snake bite, falling limb, et cetera) that may send you to the emergency room, and at this point I would assume any ER visit comes with a substantial chance of being exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. So, while it is smart and healthy to get some time outside in sunlight and fresh air, both for your mental health and to stimulate your immune system, I would encourage you to select activities with a low potential for injury (walking on flat land or pavement, some kind of non-risky isometric exercises or jumping rope in the home, et cetera) rather than hiking outdoors. Of course, you are an adult and free to do what you wish, but recognize that should you get injured and require EMS you are not only putting yourself at risk but also taking away resources whether they are otherwise desperately needed.

Whatever you do, please be sensible and cautious. You don't even want to get into a minor car accident or slip and fall in the bathroom right now.

Stranger
Stranger, you have a well-deserved reputation for wise posts, so I hesitate to question you on this one, but you have me puzzled here. The odds of the OP, an experienced hiker, getting a snakebite are very low: in the US, about 7,000 people per year get snakebites. He's much more likely to get bitten by a dog (about 5 million per year) walking in his flat, paved neighborhood (assuming he doesn't live in the country). Falling tree limbs injure fewer than 700 people a year. A sprained ankle, which doesn't necessarily mean an ER trip, is a very common jumprope injury.

At age 63 and as an experienced hiker, the OP isn't exactly a doddering old person. I agree he doesn't want to be in a hospital waiting room right now, but I'm more concerned about him ending up there because of the COPD or close contact with infected hikers than the unlikely dangers you mention.

That said, I'm hiking my neighborhood now that the gym is closed. There's an 18% grade hill less than 2 miles away, and I do 10 circuits on that because it's closest to the workout I was doing at the gym, the workout a personal trainer developed for me. Oh, and I'm also 63.
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Old 04-04-2020, 04:00 PM
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Stranger, you have a well-deserved reputation for wise posts, so I hesitate to question you on this one, but you have me puzzled here. The odds of the OP, an experienced hiker, getting a snakebite are very low: in the US, about 7,000 people per year get snakebites. He's much more likely to get bitten by a dog (about 5 million per year) walking in his flat, paved neighborhood (assuming he doesn't live in the country). Falling tree limbs injure fewer than 700 people a year. A sprained ankle, which doesn't necessarily mean an ER trip, is a very common jumprope injury.
Agreed that the likelihood of those types of injury is low, and frankly he's statistically far more likely to get injured on the drive to the trailhead than on the trail, which is why the tone of my post wasn't frame as, "Do you have a death wish?" But for someone with his underlying conditions, any trip to the ER or urgent care poses a severe risk of contracting the virus, so it makes sense to minimize risks as much as possible. It obviously isn't possible to avoid going into the bathroom and probably not feasible to not walk around the neighborhood but going out trail hiking is a choice that increases risk, although, again, not by a huge amount, and the bigger risk is just unnecessary driving.

I've seen a lot more fool-ass behavior in the last few days than going hiking; just last night a group of teens or twenty-somethings was climbing up and walking on the railings of the deck below my place; the were probably bored while waiting to pick up their takeout, and because no one is around there wasn't anyone telling them to not climb up on the deck, but one slip and a header off the deck is pretty much a guarantee a trip to the most infectious environment in an area in which hospitals are already being overwhelmed. This is not the time to take unnecessary risks without serious consideration for the consequences. Or, as Samuel L. Jackson says, "Stay the **** at home!".

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Old 04-04-2020, 04:08 PM
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You should probably stay home. You have two confirmed risk factors there. Furthermore you can't count on other people to use common sense and stay away.

.
Yep. With two risk factors, stay at home, hike in your backyard. Sorry.

I go walking in my neighborhood, and even there I have to dodge people once in a while.
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Old 04-04-2020, 04:11 PM
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Can you try to find a time to go when there are fewer people there? Maybe right at dawn?

I normally walk my dog before sunup, because I have to walk her before work. I've was trying to take this opportunity to walk her during the daylight now, but there are so many other people out, that we've returned to doing our long walk before sunup. We are still doing a short one in the afternoon, and we do a bike ride around the building, so she can run.

She normally goes to daycare a full day on Tuesdays, and a half day on Fridays, and she is really missing the exercise she gets, so I let her run with me while I bike for 5-10 minutes around our building (NOT on city streets, or even sidewalks), so she can run.

Anyway, I totally get why you are antsy. I have a job that keeps me on my feet for about 80% of the time. Getting enough "upright" time is hard.
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Old 04-04-2020, 04:43 PM
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Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Stranger.

OP, I just read an article on the importance of walking for people with COPD. And of course walking or hiking is excellent for people with hypertension. So DON'T stay home unless you live in an urban area where there are too many people walking to be able to maintain a safe distance, the same issue you have on hiking trails.
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Old 04-04-2020, 05:09 PM
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OP, I just read an article on the importance of walking for people with COPD. And of course walking or hiking is excellent for people with hypertension. So DON'T stay home unless you live in an urban area where there are too many people walking to be able to maintain a safe distance, the same issue you have on hiking trails.
Agreed. Maintaining good fitness and getting fresh air and sun is important for good health. Just find a way to do so that minimizes even incidental risks.

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Old 04-04-2020, 07:12 PM
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A few years back a woman in my town was killed walking her dog. She was on the sidewalk. Idiot decided to go 100 down a street and lost control. Actually that isn't even the only case in my town of that happening.

Not safe at home, house could explode. It happens. Can't cook, could get burned. Can't use any electricity, could get electrocuted. Could jab your hand or your eye doing a crossword puzzle.

There are some people who are going to have to go to the hospital regardless. Like the pastor at my church who had a major stroke, Young guy, in shape as well. Just happens.

I am not trying to make light, but this is getting to the point of tertiary risk. Ask an actuary.
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Old 04-04-2020, 07:52 PM
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I think exercise is need however, stop to think about this:

You fall over and sprain or break your arm. Do you really want to need medical attention at a time like this?

That doesn't mean you should or should not, but don't forget to consider all the angles in your decisions.
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Old 04-04-2020, 08:33 PM
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There are some people who are going to have to go to the hospital regardless. Like the pastor at my church who had a major stroke, Young guy, in shape as well. Just happens.
Yes, bad things happen to good people for no reason, and some people will have to go to the ER for incidental injuries or unexpected conditions. The point is to minimize that chance that this will happen in the next few weeks (or more likely, couple of months) while the ER is full of highly infectious patients and doctors are too overtasked to spend the normal amount of time they would on a regular, non-COVID-19 related condition. I was going to go hiking a couple of weekends ago and decided not to after talking with a friend, and then later heard that someone on that same trail somehow slid off and had to be recovered by VSAR, which meant not only did that guy put a SAR team at risk but he also tied up resources that may be needed to transport and treat other patients.

It doesn't sound like the o.p. is going to do this kind of higher risk hike, and he's a grown-up so he can make his own decision about how much additional risk he wants to accept (and again the statistically biggest risk on any normal hike is the drive to the trailhead) but just right now is the time to take an extra minute and question whether some non-necessary activity outside the home is really worth the risk to both yourself and anyone that might be impacted if an accident occurs. In the US we are not on the kind of total lockdown they are experiencing in Italy or Spain (after being far too dilatory to address the epidemic when it might have done real good) but many people are taking that to mean that isolation measures are just a recommendation for other people to follow, and that is not a good mentality to have.

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Old 04-04-2020, 10:59 PM
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In the UK, police drones are patrolling for people doing this. https://twitter.com/DerbysPolice/sta...68931503882241
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Old 04-04-2020, 11:27 PM
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I enjoy getting out hiking and bird watching. In Chicago the areas I would normally do this are off limits along the lakefront because too many people were gathering.

I've found the two large cemeteries near me are excellent substitutions. There isn't much terrain with a significant grade but there is a lot of open space with very few (live) people. I was out for an hour on two different days this week and didn't encounter more than a half dozen other people and none of us got within 25 feet of each other. I checked out some of the forest preserves and they were mobbed with people on the trails.

Cemeteries are my solution for now.

Last edited by Kolak of Twilo; 04-04-2020 at 11:28 PM.
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Old 04-05-2020, 04:19 AM
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Yesterday the police reported 5 motorcycle crashes in the neighboring canton, with 3 people needing medical attention. In the article they reminded the reader to follow the instructions of the government to stay at home and avoid excursions.

It is permitted to go for walks, as long as the people keep their distance, and that they walk from home. In our 2 hour walk yesterday we saw approximately 3 dozen people walking, including a family group of 8 and a group of friends, but most were pairs.

We also saw approximately a dozen bicyclists and the same number of motorcyclists. According to the locals, bicycling is fine, but riding motorcycles, except for essential travel, is not.

It's all about risks. The lowest risk is to stay at home, but this might not be the best answer for one's sanity.
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Old 04-05-2020, 05:35 AM
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Go out at dawn. You will miss the newbies, they never get out the door that early. And you will hear the birds.

I took my horse out yesterday (there are miles of trails I can just ride to from my house) and came across four sets of hikers in an hour. Which is four more than I ever see. Luckily, being mounted on a horse kind of enforces that social distance thing even if most of the people weren't nervously giving my horse a wide berth. At least one set of hikers had clearly barely if ever set foot on an unmaintained trail. Hope they made it back alive.
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Old 04-05-2020, 06:25 AM
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If it applies, my doctor told me I need to take the time to bring my dog out for a walk every once in a while, for exercise and sanity sake. Then again, she also told me to wear a mask.
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Old 04-05-2020, 09:05 AM
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I enjoy getting out hiking and bird watching. In Chicago the areas I would normally do this are off limits along the lakefront because too many people were gathering.

I've found the two large cemeteries near me are excellent substitutions. There isn't much terrain with a significant grade but there is a lot of open space with very few (live) people. I was out for an hour on two different days this week and didn't encounter more than a half dozen other people and none of us got within 25 feet of each other. I checked out some of the forest preserves and they were mobbed with people on the trails.

Cemeteries are my solution for now.
This is a good idea.

There are three cementaries within a mile of me. They are open for visitation, but they haven't been packed with people like the parks and trails have been. You may not get the best work-out in them, but at least you won't have to worry about avoiding people.
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Old 04-05-2020, 10:10 AM
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Go out at dawn.
We ran at dawn today, saw only about a dozen people on a 6 mile loop. Last week we ran the same loop later in the morning (still early, maybe on the trail at 8:00) and saw over 100 people in close proximity.
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Old 04-05-2020, 03:52 PM
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I read that using corticosteroids puts one at elevated risk, so that's another category I'm in.

I think I'm deciding to stop going hiking while this pandemic is brewing. Which is rotten because I can see losing a whole year, and it wouldn't be surprising if I only had ten more hiking years left -- 20 would be lucky I think.

Fortunately we do have our own house with an acre and a half, so I spent today out in the sunshine blowing leaves and cleaning up forest debris. It's not like just sitting inside.

But I'm really going to miss hiking, assuming this decision sticks.
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Old 04-05-2020, 05:06 PM
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I have friends hiking well into their 80's. Granted, they're slower and taking on smaller challenges, but they are still out there. You don't stop hiking because you get old; you get old because you stop hiking.
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Old 04-05-2020, 09:58 PM
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I have friends hiking well into their 80's. Granted, they're slower and taking on smaller challenges, but they are still out there. You don't stop hiking because you get old; you get old because you stop hiking.
That’s kinda the idea. I’m going to stop hiking to improve my chances of getting old.
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Old 04-06-2020, 06:28 AM
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Can you find anyplace that's less likely to be crowded?
I'm really appreciating our rural location. We've been taking the dogs out into our woods every day, and yesterday we rode our horses. Haven't run into anyone else in the woods yet.

Friends of ours have hiked with us in the before-times and they've taken a couple of hikes solo on our property in the past few weeks. They park in a far corner of our parking area, go for their hike, then go home.
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Old 04-06-2020, 09:50 AM
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‘You aren’t getting it.’: farmer urges public to stay away from fields

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Old 04-06-2020, 10:42 AM
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broken link
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Old 04-06-2020, 11:04 AM
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I swear that worked when I previewed, but here: 'You aren't getting it': farmer urges public to stay away from fields

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Old 04-06-2020, 12:51 PM
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Since OP wants opinions, here's mine. Mea culpa: I'm an old fart with substandard heart, lungs, eyes, and brain. And I'm not out walking our mountain for exercise because snowbound again. But if MrsRico & I *were* in a (sub)urban locale with tolerable weather, we would cautiously stroll as long as we could keep distant from others. We would continue to practice mindfulness and avoid risky slopes and rough trails. Watch and savor every careful step. Carry 6-foot hiking staffs. Be sober. Assume nothing. Have a nice day!
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Old 04-06-2020, 01:31 PM
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I swear that worked when I previewed, but here: 'You aren't getting it': farmer urges public to stay away from fields
Since that is a youtube, can you summarize?
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Old 04-06-2020, 02:59 PM
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Since that is a youtube, can you summarize?
People are using farmer's fields to walk for exercise and to walk their dogs, and the farmers are not happy with them. They're bringing viruses, leaving gates open, their dogs are leaving waste, etc.
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Old 04-06-2020, 04:32 PM
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People are using farmer's fields to walk for exercise and to walk their dogs, and the farmers are not happy with them. They're bringing viruses, leaving gates open, their dogs are leaving waste, etc.
And they are touching things. They are touching the gate the farmer has to touch. They are potentially infecting the people they need to feed them.
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