Oh how things change in 24h. A few hours ago I was getting ready to fly to Los Angeles in a desperate move to beat the US travel ban imposed on the EU, including the UK. I was determined to chase that dream and not let it escape after 3 years of meticulous planning. But on the eve of my re-booked flight, travel insurances across the world pulled all cover for expenses related to COVID-19. For me, this meant no travel or medical cover for anything linked to the virus. When you consider that a blood test costs £1,000 in the US, I didn’t want to imagine how much an unexpected hospitalisation would have cost me.
All this considered, I made the decision to cancel my trip, at least for now.
At first I was deeply saddened and lost. I was angry, desperate, I felt a huge feeling of injustice. Why is this happening during MY year? Why is this affecting MY dream? Why can’t I just go? Fuck it, I’ll just go. Surely being in the mountains wouldn’t be such a bad thing at this time?
Well, turns out it’s much more complicated than that and it’s really not about me.
“While initially, thru-hiking may seem to be the safest place to avoid the Coronavirus, it actually puts more strain on the system. Nearly every town on the Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail is smaller and largely removed from large scale healthcare. Bringing a pandemic to the town would certainly leave a lasting imprint on the community.”
“We know less about the future than ever before right now. But, what we do know about the present is that we are all making sacrifices. They are sacrifices because we care about each other and all doing our part. No one will force you to give up your dream hike, but these may be the times that we all prepare to sacrifice for the good of others and communities.” (Jeff Garmire, aka Legend)
“The small, rural communities that are the gateways to our favorite outdoor spots are NOT prepared for a spread of this virus. Is your little road trip getaway more important than the health of a community without easy access to health services? Spoiler alert: it’s not.” (Katie Boué)
I’ve seen a lot of online shaming towards thru hikers who are currently out there. I’m not sure it’s the right attitude to adopt. Yes it makes me angry and so so jealous but rather than channelling that anger through shaming I think that we should be working towards letting them know what the situation in the real world is like. It’s very likely that for those who started even just a week ago, they’ll have no clue what’s actually happening. Shops and restaurants look to be slowly closing along the trail. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has issued a statement encouraging hikers to stay home. Perhaps that is coming for the PCT and CDT. These things will be indicators for hikers out there and may actually stand in the way of a safe thru-hike but before it gets to this point, we can help educate and share whatever piece of wisdom we come across so that they are aware of the risks.
So yes, I’m heartbroken and I’m unsure what life will look like for the next 6 months. My job is on hold, hell our public funding is on hold! But we are all in this together.
We will never know what some people gave up, but know that we all are giving up something. (Jeff Garmire, aka Legend)