Sunday, May 3, 2020

The COVID-19 slowdown

This virus isn't completely stopping our lives, it's just changing some of it.

Greetings, how are you holding up?  I truly hope you're staying positive. This is a hard time for us right now. An unexpected, unplanned, and difficult phase to be stuck in. There's a lot of panic, frustration, fear, and sadness, as a result of this catastrophic, mysterious virus. 

It's been so weird for me. On March 15, I was driving home that evening from my last backpacking trip, a solo overnight in Door County at Newport State Park, just as pandemic was rapidly unfolding. Little did I know that days later everything would be getting shut down, we'd be confined to our homes, and the ways we run about our everyday lives would be shifted. Ten days later, I turned 30 surrounded. My girlfriend Brenna baked a delicious WALL-E cake and my family helped celebrate, albeit standing like eight feet away. It was bittersweet, but I'm so grateful I got to see them. My walks around our neighborhood of Shorewood are odd. The streets are quiet and should you end up on the same sidewalk as someone, this awkward, almost depressing impulse forces us to avoid each other as a precautionary act. But by following the rules and medical professionals' recommendations to stay home as much as possible, practice social distancing, and constantly wash your hands with soap like there's no tomorrow- we are slowing the spread and making our communities safer. 

Being home-bound has forced us (and I'm sure you too) to just slow down. I've lost track of the days and hours, and it still feels like March even though my national parks calendar above my desk reads "May" in deserty orange font. Going for walks has replaced nights spent at my local rock climbing gym. I've started playing my Sony PS4 again including a spectacular, strikingly beautiful game called Firewatch that transplants you first-person, into an animated representation of the Wyoming wilderness. The game was addicting, mysterious, and emotional. It was a much-needed escape for me. I've been trying to read more, ease-off the coffee on weekends, and retreat to my storage unit alone where a project car sits in need of repair. 

You may have noticed my blog is also a tad different too. In this prolonged stretch of downtime, I've been working to reorganize, simplify, and clean up my blog. I've decided to refocus the blog's purpose back to strictly a travelogue type format. A place where I can open up to share my own stories, thoughts, and adventures across our stunning public lands. Right now, there are about 40 or so posts live on my blog and a little over 100 that are reverted back to drafts so I can sift through and remaster any ones that I want to really republish. Stay tuned.

While much of Wisconsin is thankfully locked-down, our state parks and forests reopened this past weekend. We took a relaxing 3.1-mile hike through the northern Kettle Moraine State Forest at golden hour and being surrounded and wrapped in nature's offerings was the exact recharge I needed. 

I'm not sure what my travels will be like for the remainder of 2020. Local campgrounds aren't opening up anytime soon, the majority of our national parks are closed, and I have zero intention of board an airplane until a proven vaccine arrives. A few of my go-to backpacking friends and I chose to cancel our trip to Great Smokey Mountains National Park at the end of this month, and we're now planning a trek for later in the year, if not, 2021. If I can muster a solo trip somewhere west this fall, if it's safe and permissible, I've been feeling a strong pull to Utah. I've had plans in the works to explore the Fishlake National Forest and visit a special group of aspen called "Pando," which has been designated as the largest single living thing, as each of the estimated 40,000 aspen in this 106-acre clone share the same root system. This would be a very meaningful and important trip for me. I'd likely drive too, which would make it an even more memorable journey. I'll keep my optimism high.

Finally, before signing off on this post I'd encourage you to please, check-in on the people you love. Isolation can be heavy. 

Cheers and be well,
Robby