Notes from the road in the age of COVID19

How to travel safely in the age of COVID19

We are now nearing end of month five of the COVID pandemic impact upon our lives. After a few nearby road trips, we are planning an upcoming six day camping trip to California’s north state, with a several night stop in Lassen Volcanic National Park. My spouse and I, retired, are of the age where we pay rapt attention to the pandemic facts of life. A recent rebound in cases and deaths across the US has our highest attention. So, we don’t travel outside our home without considerable circumspection and aforethought. Here are factors that play into our thinking.

Frozen Lake Helen, with Mt. Lassen looming in background, Lassen National Park.

Focus first on the great outdoors, outside your own door. Relax in your backyard, sitting in the shade, with a pair of binoculars and a cold drink, checking out birds, butterflies and critters that visit. Explore your own neighborhood, admiring neighbor’s yards and other nearby attractions. Journey to the great outdoors within your city and county. Oak Grove Regional Park, Lodi Lake Park, Cosumnes River Preserve (just north of the county line, above Thornton), Caswell Memorial State Park in Ripon, the wild areas in Manteca and Tracy and the San Joaquin River Delta along our county’s west side offer truly wild and memorable spaces.

Author’s grandkids picking blackberries in Cosumnes River Preserve,
just north of Thornton, CA.

Bike and hiking trails bisect all of these cities, offering relatively safe and hassle-free access to gems nearby. As example, the Calaveras River bike Trail in Stockton connects east and west destinations and is split in the middle by University of Pacific, a lovely campus full of interesting  destinations and attractions in its own right. And from UOP, follow Kensington and Baker southbound to get to Stockton’s Deepwater channel. The Joan Darrah Promenade circles the channel taking in on the North Shore the Stockton Ports Ballpark, Stockton Arena, linking to Weber Point Event Center, the Waterfront Warehouse, Stockton Marina and Stockton Children’s Museum on the south shore.

The lovely San Joaquin River Delta offers plenty of nearby touring destinations.

In the last five months, following the COVID-19 pandemic machinations, we’ve done a pretty good job of checking out local hiking and biking destinations. We have journeyed a bit further afield to some hiking and biking options in neighboring counties, avoiding weekends when crowds form. Three weeks ago, we took a day trip up to the western shore of Lake Tahoe, hiked the Mt. Tallac Trail and spent a leisurely lunch and early afternoon on Baldwin Beach. We left with a full tank of gas, brought in our own food and drink and had no interaction with Tahoe residents but for passing a few of them on the hiking trail from a distance of 6 to 10 feet (we wore masks, most of the other hikers did not). On the beach, it was easy to keep 20 to 40 feet of distance.

DeRosa University Center, just off the Calaveras Bike Trail,
allows bikers to stop for a respite on the lovely University of Pacific campus.

After I wrote about the trip, I received a thoughtful email from a Tahoe resident, decrying the impacts of the crush of visitors on Lake Tahoe in recent months. She went on to note that their cities are not set up to handle an onslaught of visitors, residents fear the Covid virus being brought into their towns, that many visitors don’t practice medically-sanctioned precautions and too many leave trash. After swapping several emails, I thought it was worth writing about, again.

Hence, Covid19 travel suggestions from my wife and me:

  • First, explore the world near your back door, in your own city and county, first.
  • Second, only when COVID19 realities affirm, look to nearby attractions across county lines.
  • Target attractions on “off-days”; we almost always avoid traveling on weekends, to beat crowds.
  • Target lesser-known destinations for day trips or longer. Skip Lake Tahoe at present, look to parks in the East Bay Hills, like Round Valley Regional Park or Black Diamond Mines Preserve, or Sierra foothills like Indian Grinding Rocks State Park, Marshall Gold Discovery Park, Pinecrest Lake or Silver Lake (plenty of Forest Service campgrounds in the Sierra, as well).
  • Check the county of destination and local chamber of commerce websites for COVID updates.
  • Strive to be self-contained: Leave with a full tank of gas, take your own food and drink; with our little trailer, we do our own meals and can travel to a nearby national park like Lassen Volcanic with nary a brush with other people. In the campground, we stick to ourselves and will hike early, on lesser known trails (hiking apps like All Trails offer low-traffic options).
  • Be the poster child for Covid19 precautions: Gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, maintain more than 6 feet of distance, avoid crowded locations. If you do shop or dine outside, avoid retailers who don’t require shoppers to mask up or restaurants which don’t allow 6 feet or more distance. Focus on outdoor, no crowd destinations (hiking trails, out of way beaches, outdoor seating with plenty of space).

Lassen National Park, here we come, with a vow to “leave no trace”!

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com; search his blog, recordnet.com/travelblog. Stay safe, maintain your distance and remain resolute!

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