Coronavirus containment measures haven’t kept hikers off of Methow Valley trails this season, although behaviors have changed.
“Some of our trailheads have been incredibly busy, maybe busier than I have ever seen them,” said Erika Kercher Halm, outreach and access manager at Methow Trails. “Although the trailheads have seemed more crowded, people have been able to spread out on the trail systems. There is space for folks out there.”
Okanogan County is in Phase II of the state’s recovery plan, which allows for trail use – with limitations on group size (five or fewer users in a group from outside of a single household), and requirements for 6 feet of social distancing while out on trails.
As Halm noted, “Really, if you cannot keep 6 feet apart on a trail, then you should be home, because that trail is too crowded.”
“The biggest thing is just being flexible and respectful. And having a backup plan if you go to a trailhead and it’s really crowded,” said Halm.
When passing other trail users, find a place to do so that allows for the appropriate distancing. “As much as people can look ahead, down the trail, [for other users] it’s important to do so, especially if you’re on a narrow trail, and if you see a good spot to step off, do that,” said Halm.
Halm added that when looking for a place to step off trail, hikers should seek harder or rockier ground, rather than, say, a patch of wildflowers.
Visitors and locals alike who are out in public places are required to wear facial coverings; however, wearing a mask is not required when people are outdoors and able to maintain 6 feet of distance.
“We don’t expect that everyone is wearing a mask while mountain biking, or hiking,” said Halm. “But, if they are at a trailhead, or waiting to use an outhouse, that might be a moment to wear a mask.”
“The biggest thing with masks is having them accessible, especially if you do need to put them on quickly,” said Halm.
Methow Trails has created and installed signage at a variety of trailheads, reminding users how to recreate responsibly during the pandemic. The orange signs, 12 of them in all, are on display at all of the major trailheads in the Methow Trails’ network to serve as a reminder for recommended trail etiquette. The organization plans to install signs at less-crowded trailheads as needed.
“Following the [signage] can help a lot with being able to relax and recreate all together as a community,” said Halm. The bottom line: “It’s really all about being respectful of other trail users.”