Physical Distancing, Social Responsibility, and Outdoor Pursuits

Physical Distancing, Social Responsibility, and Outdoor Pursuits

Posted by Fred Knapp on 17th Mar 2020

I’m normally just as happy at a crowded crag as I am at a peaceful one. Conversely, I’m usually not one to share on social media.

The Corona threat is so unique. My views change from morning to night; they can refresh by the hour; the second hand may soon serve as their metronome.

A few days ago (in my first blog in ages), I declared that I’d deal with the pandemic—and the social distance required to defeat it—by climbing outdoors with friends, spending time with family, and rafting. So much has changed in those 48 hours.

Yesterday, I climbed outdoors, managing to find a vacant crag (in winter shade). It felt good to be moving on stone, to be outdoors, to escape the news cycle.

Climbers showed up and jumped on a neighboring route. I was visited by the acumen—that visceral gut check—I felt on my last day at the climbing gym. We pulled our ropes, hiked down, and found an isolated cliff.

Another party approached as we shoed-up for our last pitch. These folks hiked 15 feet beneath us, clearly observing social distance. We chatted from a couple meters, learned a little about each other. We discussed social distance, yet I didn’t feel socially distant. Perhaps a better moniker would be “physical distancing-social responsibility.”

My recent embrace of social media tells me something: COVID-19 may bring us together in unanticipated ways—it may even bring us together as a country. I’m finding comfort in Facebook; I’m enjoying translating my thoughts to prose (a passion I’ve largely neglected); I’m hearing messages that may have otherwise eluded me. I’ve substituted handshakes and hugs for the blue light of a screen, but I’m learning more about my friends and my community.

I cancelled our river trip out of respect for rural communities with limited healthcare, and I altered the blog so that it wouldn’t suggest traveling to crags. Thank you, friends, for sharing these concerns with civility and contemplation.

I care about the greater good and, out of respect to society, I’m taking precautions: I’m asking my kids to pick two friends to hang out with—friends that are also willing to pick just two. If I continue to crag, it will be only in the company of my two choices or my family.

I’m still calm and mindful. That is not the same as ignoring science. The latter is selfish and socially irresponsible.