PNT

An engraved boulder highlights a point along the Pacific Northwest Trail on Blanchard Mountain near Chuckanut Drive.

Note: In the two days since this story was written, some state and federal recreational lands have closed. The state Department of Fish & Wildlife and the North Cascades National Park Service Complex closed such facilities as campgrounds, boat ramps, access roads and wildlife areas effective March 25. The Fish & Wildlife closure lasts at least two weeks. The state Department of Natural Resources will close access to all of its lands beginning March 26 and running until at least April 8.

With more people finding themselves at home, the outdoors are becoming crowded.

Despite being outside, rules during the COVID-19 pandemic still need to be followed.

“Six feet is six feet,” said guide book author and Mount Vernon resident Craig Romano. “Just because you are outside doesn’t mean social distancing can stop. If we are going to have any chance of flattening the curve, as they say, we have to still do our part on the trails.”

Romano’s “Urban Trail” and “Day Hiking” series highlight trails in and around Skagit County.

Social distancing on trails means giving fellow hikers wide berths as well as finding less crowded trails.

“People are still going to popular trails,” Romano said. “I refuse to go to crowded places. There are just so many other options.

“Now is not the time to go to Oyster Dome. Find different trails.”

Romano has seen plenty of hikers not following the social distancing guidelines, instead walking shoulder to shoulder or in large groups.

“That’s no good,” he said. “This isn’t some holiday or vacation. This is serious and people need to see it as such. You have to find those trails less traveled. And there are plenty of those type (of) trails around.

“That’s one good thing I guess. You are going to have to do your research and seek those sorts of trails out. There are plenty of logging roads to hike.”

Romano isn’t shying away from getting out and about. He still goes on his morning runs, adding he goes out of his way to stay six feet away from anyone he encounters.

The Washington Trails Association says to try and stay local when choosing trails.

Before departing, make sure and check the status of the trail. Many areas and facilities have already closed, including ranger stations, park buildings and restrooms.

Practice social distancing while going to the trailhead. Carpooling is not advisable. And along those same lines, hike with those you are already in contact with, such as family.

The 10 essentials have now ballooned to include whatever you may need. Plan not to stop for supplies, including gas.

“You want to try and stay close to home,” Romano said. “You don’t want to travel long distances.”

Hikers, like everyone else, need to watch where they put their hands and avoid touching faces. Railings are grasped by a multitude of individuals, so sanitize hands before eating or drinking, and avoid sharing.

“If people can’t adhere to social distancing, they are going to end up closing trails because if we can’t do this on our own, it will be done for us,” Romano said.

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