Hiking steps into a pandemic trend

By Jackson Pham, March 23, 2021

With the COVID-19 pandemic restricting a variety of recreational activities, many people have turned to hiking as a way to stay connected to nature while breaking a sweat one step at a time.

Hiking, according to the National Park Services, lends many physical and emotional benefits such as improvement in heart health, sensory perception, sense of balance and overall reduced stress and anxiety. With Southern California boasting an assortment of local parks, it allows the CPP community to hike the outdoors while maintaining COVID-19 and hiking safety protocols.

Ian Navarro, adventure education coordinator at ASI, recommends to “start small” when choosing a new trail to hike especially for those who have not been active in the past couple of months.

“For a first hike in a new place, two to three miles would be a good starter, especially if there was steeper or more challenging terrain and then from there, you can go ahead and start progressing in mileage,” Navarro said.

The Claremont Hill Wilderness Park loops around in a five mile trail with a variety of incline and steady hills. (Courtesy of Jackson Pham)

Navarro encourages students to use the Bronco Get Outdoors program on ASI’s campus recreation website, which lists recommendations for local campus hikes such as the Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park, Claremont Wilderness Loop and trails in the Angeles National Forest.

“Cal Poly is in a unique spot where we do not only have urban trails, but we also have trails up in our local foothill and we also have county parks in the local area,” Navarro said.

The mobile application and website, AllTrails, is another great resource for new hikers to map out the distance of their designated trail and view the level of difficulty ranging from easy, moderate or difficult, according to Navarro.

Hiking is a way for people to gain the exercise that is lacking due to the pandemic. However, according to The Leave No Trace recommendations, it is still important to follow COVID-19 guidelines such as social distancing and mask wearing when being in the parks and on trails.

Navarro also recommends keeping hands frequently sanitized especially after touching things with heavy use such as handrails when hiking.

“Bring two small spray bottles: one with soap water in it, preferably like a biodegradable soap and the other one with water,” Navarro said. “If you’re hiking with a partner, you can take turns washing your hands; spray bottles are a very efficient, easy and quick way to do so effectively.”

Everyone should be prepared with essentials prior to arriving on trails. This infographic provides a few recommendations for things to bring when hiking. (Photo courtesy of Luke Porter and information courtesy of Carla Jackson)

Similarly, Health Educator Carla Jackson from the Bronco Wellness Services, believes that it is not only crucial to practice COVID-19 safety guidelines but also to be prepared with essentials such as food and water, a first-aid kit, a comfortable pair of shoes, a jacket and a Sharpie marker.

“Although getting bitten by a rattlesnake is unlikely — it’s possible; so, you want to be prepared,” Jackson said. “The reason for the Sharpie is that if you were to get bitten by a snake, you want to circle that bite so the medical personnel know how big the bite was just after.”

According to Jackson, it is important to continue to circle the swelling every thirty minutes until help arrives so the medical professional can track how much poison has spread after the bite.

Hiking has always been an accessible activity, but with the pandemic, the popularity in the activity has soared. According to a RunRepeat research study, in 2020, the number of hikes tracked by users on the AllTrails app increased by 171.3% compared to 2019. The number of hikers has also increased by 134.7%, according to the study.

Guests are required to wear face coverings when hiking on the Claremont Hills Loop trail. (Courtesy of Jackson Pham)

Second-year hospitality management student Nicole Hoyer, who traveled to a variety of state parks in the past summer, explains that hiking allows her adventurous persona to come out in times of uncertainty such as the pandemic.

“I kind of enjoy the scenery and really being in the open air and open environment,” Hoyer said. “There is so much more out there than what social media portrays. Once you stumble upon it and see it for yourself, you’re like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe this is actually here and I can hike it.’”

She recommends people who are interested in hiking to wear a hat and sunscreen and to bring extra layers of clothing in case the weather changes throughout the day.

“Don’t be timid; I know sometimes the big hills and different areas could be scary but once you go out there and try it for yourself, it is definitely fun,” Hoyer added. “There is nothing too big that you cannot do.”

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