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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Hiking In San Diego County During A Pandemic

 July 20, 2020 at 11:15 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 One thing we are learning about this virus is that you are safer outside. So if you feel like you're going stir crazy at home, heading out for a hike is one of the best and safest things you can do. Not necessarily a strenuous hike that requires boots and stamina. Even short hikes are a huge relief from the stress and tedium of being cooped up here to inspire us, to find new ways to get outside. Is it Scott Turner, who is co author of the fifth edition of a foot and a field in San Diego County? Arguably the definitive book on hiking in San Diego County. Thanks for being with us, Scott, thanks for having me. So now, as well as writing this book, you are also a therapist. How does hiking help during this COVID-19 time? Speaker 2: 00:42 There's a lot of emerging evidence. That's come out over the past decade that indicates that hiking can take your stress levels down pretty significantly. And I think that's something that everybody needs right now. And, um, we found a lot of people going out on the trails attempting to do just that. Speaker 1: 00:58 How has hiking actually helped your a state of mind during this time? Speaker 2: 01:02 It has been a nice outlet. As far as stress relief is concerned. I find that when I don't go hiking and I'm cooped up in the house, so I'm, I'm at home with the three and a half year old. And then I spent half of the day working, doing therapy. And when I'm cooped up, I find that I kind of get locked into a certain kind of mood. That's not always the best kind of mood. And so when I'm out and hiking, everything sort of loosens up and I find that I'm able to kind of shake that mood off. It gives me a lot of clarity. It gives me a lot of peace of mind. And when I come back, I'm a much nicer person. Speaker 1: 01:34 How have your hiking habits changed during those time? Speaker 2: 01:37 I stopped altogether once Gavin or once governor Newsome issued the stay at home order. So I stopped for about two months. During that time afterwards, I made a point of trying to stay as close to home as possible. During the time I was quarantined, we looked into how many hikes I could find within 20 minutes of my house so that I could avoid any long trips. Speaker 1: 01:58 Yes, I did that too. And discovered an amazing number of hikes, close to home. How what's a good way of finding hikes near your own home. Speaker 2: 02:06 One of the easiest ways is to go to your local city or regions, parks, and recreation website. Um, you may have to, may have to do a little bit of navigating, but once you get a hang of how their website works, it gives you a pretty complete listing of all the different, um, open space properties that they have. And so through that, I, I live sandwiched between Carlsbad and Encinitas. And through that, I was able to find about 25 different trails. I could hike Speaker 1: 02:31 25. Yes. Would you say that most of the hikes are open now or are some of them still do sometimes show up and find they're still closed? Speaker 2: 02:39 Most of the trails are still open right now. Only a few of them. A few significant ones are closed. Most notably would be Tory pine state, natural reserve. Their entire trail network is closed. Although the beach is open. What I'm finding is that it's not so much that the trails themselves are closed, but a lot of the facilities such as campgrounds, picnic areas, any place where people can congregate, those areas tend to be closed. Same with visitor centers. Some, a lot of the times the bathrooms are also closed. So you can get onto a trail. You just can't count on having all the services you might expect. Speaker 1: 03:11 I know mission trails, some of them are open. Some of them are closed right now. How do you find that out? Speaker 2: 03:17 The easiest way would be to go to mission trails websites. Um, also most of these parks and recreation areas do a really good job of keeping up with their social media. So they've got Facebook pages, they have Instagram pages, and if you're able to follow them, they post pretty regular updates. Uh, so something's gonna open, you can check out the mission trails, regional park, Facebook page, and they'll give you an indication saying, Oh, guess what? Cole's mountain just opened. They'll give you a lot of notifications on that. Speaker 1: 03:43 You mentioned North County. I know that San Marcus has a great trail network around double peak there. Um, there's boy to Vista park and Vista. The thing is that the beaches are often quite crowded, aren't they? So do you think that there's enough hiking trails inland so that those won't get crowded too at this time when everybody's looking for somewhere to, Speaker 2: 04:04 Well, that's the catch 22 with all of this is that not only have the beaches become very crowded, but you have to remember that the gyms and fitness centers are also closed. So, um, you know, San Diego County being a very active County, a lot of people are going out and trying to figure out how they're going to get their exercise in. So the trails have been very, very crowded ever since. Um, the, uh, stay at home orders were eased somewhat. Speaker 1: 04:29 What do you do when you bump into somebody on a trail? I mean, it's, it's a, it, it seems kind of awkward to put up your mask, but, uh, what, what would you say is the best protocol to follow and hiking? Speaker 2: 04:40 Well, one of the things is I, I do my best to start early. So if you start early and I'm talking early, like sunrise early, if you start early, there's a really good chance that they're going to be far fewer people on the trail. Um, if you can't do that, then I try to pick out the trails that have wider spaces, where you can step aside and let people pass. I have been wearing a mask. I tend to pull it down whenever there's nobody within 20 feet of me, but whenever I see somebody approaching, I'll pull it up over my face and that's worked out really, really well for me, Speaker 1: 05:12 Give us some, some ideas of some of the places that you've found that you didn't even know existed before the pandemic begins. Speaker 2: 05:18 Yeah. So again, being a North County resident, I have lived within about, I don't know, a 10 mile drive from Encinitas ranch, which is it occupies two coastal Bluffs. There's a big golf course there it's up above the forum shops. If anybody's familiar with that on a Leucadia Boulevard. And there's a trail network that covers about six to seven miles there, it winds through suburban areas. So it's not exactly a wilderness experience, but you know, when you're in the middle of a pandemic and you know that most of the state parks and the national forests are closed seven miles, 10 minutes from your house starts to sound really, really good. And so that was a revelation for me, Speaker 1: 05:54 People who perhaps don't hike very much, seven to miles, sounds a bit, a bit of a strenuous undertaking. Um, would you say that even shorter hikes are helpful for our general state of mind? Speaker 2: 06:06 Yeah. I think some of the evidence that I've looked at says that within 20 minutes, you start to notice a significant decrease in your stress hormone levels. That's, there's research out there. I don't have the specific study to quote for you, but I do know that within 20 minutes, which is about a mile walk for someone moving at a fairly brisk pace, you can reduce your stress levels. So if you're able to take a three mile walk or even a two mile walk, and even if you were to stop for about 15 to 20 minutes and, you know, spend a full hour on the trail, you're going to get some pretty good benefits from your outside experience. Speaker 1: 06:39 Any advice for folks who perhaps don't normally hike on a regular basis, but feel like this might be a way to improve their quality of life at this time. Speaker 2: 06:49 First and foremost, right now, we're in the middle of summer and it's going to be a very long, hot summer. So on top of all the pandemic stuff, we also have to be mindful that anything East of interstate five can become uncomfortably hot. So for people who are new to hiking, I would check the weather forecast before you go and make sure you're not trying to start your hike at one in the afternoon when it's 95 degrees. Um, additionally always bring enough water with you. Even if you aren't able to get up at seven o'clock or six o'clock in the morning. If you go out and you have two to three liters of water more than you think you'll need, that's a really important part of it. Also, most of our trails are very exposed. So you're going to want to bring some kind of sun protection that includes sunscreen. It includes a wide brimmed hat, um, try to avoid wearing dark colors because they tend to absorb heat. Um, I encourage everybody who does go out there to do a little bit of basic research in terms of what, what to bring what's safe, learn about the tennis essentials. Learn about leave no trace principles. And if you do that, even as a new hiker, you're still going to be able to have a great time. And you're going to have a safe experience. Speaker 1: 07:58 Scott, thanks so much. Yeah. Thank you for having me. That's Scott Turner, who is co author of the fifth edition of a foot and a field in San Diego County.

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One thing we are learning about this virus is that you are safer outside. So if you feel like you are going stir-crazy at home, heading out for a hike is one of the best and safest things you can do. Not necessarily a strenuous hike that requires boots and stamina. Even short hikes are a huge relief from the stress and tedium of being cooped up.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments