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Tips for hiking responsibly during the coronavirus pandemic

Getting outdoors can help relieve stress, but experts are offering tips for how to do it responsibly to keep you and other hikers safe while on the trail.

SEATTLE — The King County Sheriff's Office is warning hikers due to the coronavirus pandemic the number of search and rescue volunteers could diminish and response time could be longer than normal moving forward. 

King County Sheriff officials said they've seen a spike recently in search and rescue calls for lost, missing and injured hikers. 

The outbreak has many people a little on edge and getting outdoors can help relieve that stress, but it can also pose a risk to you and other hikers if you're not prepared. 

The King County Sheriff's Office recommended having these 10 essentials for any outdoor excursion: 

  • Navigation - map, compass, GPS
  • Sun Protection - glasses, sunscreen, hat
  • Insulation - extra clothes, avoid cotton
  • Illumination - headlamp, flashlight
  • First aid supplies - know how to use them
  • Emergency fire - camp stove, matches
  • Repair kit and tools - what can break
  • Nutrition - enough and extra food
  • Hydration - enough and extra water
  • Emergency shelter and Communication - cell phone, whistle

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The Washington Trails Association (WTA) also offered tips for hikers while practicing social distancing during the pandemic. 

  • Try staying local - Washington state has tons of trails and green spaces, some of them right in the middle of the towns and cities. Staying closer to home can help prevent the spread of the virus to smaller, rural communities. 
  • Try the road less traveled - Do your best to avoid trails where the main attraction is a viewpoint because more people will likely be gathered there.
  • Hike with those you know - Plan to hike with people you're already in contact with, such as family or roommates. This is not the best time to meet up with a friend or make new friends on the trail. 
  • Driving to the trailhead? - This is a rare time when WTA is recommending you not take public transit or carpool, but instead practice social distancing and drive solo or only with people you're already in contact with.
  • On the trail, give each other space - Give people space in parking lots, gathering areas and when you see approaching hikers on the trail try to step off the trail to keep a 6 feet distance between you. 

WTA also recommended that hikers double-check where they are going is open before leaving the house and to have a backup plan if you arrive and the area is extremely crowded. Hikers should also plan on ranger stations, park buildings, restrooms and facilities to be closed. 

You should always pack out what you pack in, including trash, toilet paper, and human waste to properly dispose of it. 

During this time, packing hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes could also be useful to keep your hands clean and avoid touching your face. 

Finally, if you feeling sick, stay home and until you're well before heading into the great outdoors. 

More information from the Washington Trails Association.

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