On Trail Closures: An Invitation to Remember Nature isn't just what happens Out There

Apr 10, 2020
Trails and outdoor amenities all around us are closing, as we come together to stay home and save lives. But staying home doesn't have to mean staying away from nature. Read Land Trust Outreach Associate, Rebekah Ratcliff's reflections on reconnecting with nature in this time of closures.

by Rebekah Ratcliff 

Hiking boots are going unworn, specialized outdoor gear is growing nearly as useless as it is brightly colored, mountain bikes rest in the garage, skis dry on their racks, chalk bags gather dust, and recreationists everywhere seem to be itching--itching to get out, itching to feel the release, ready to connect with nature again.

I get it, I can’t wait to go play again soon in some of my favorite places! But, like so many, I can't help but to take a hard look at my choices. With new trail closures, CDC recommendations, and health guidelines everyday, my choices are increasingly limited. There’s nothing quite like being told you can’t do something to make you want it even more. 

I signed up to take my third ski lesson (shout out to all my fellow beginner recreationists out there!), then the mountain closed. I was going to go climbing on a sunny day, then State Parks closed. I was going to paddle on the river, and then I got scared of how many cars were in the parking lot. I was going to hike my favorite local trail, then I remembered how challenging social distancing would be on such a narrow path. Then, I finally stopped pushing to get out and decided it was time to stay home.

After years and years of being told “get out there,” “nature will heal you,” “the mountains are calling and you need to go,” “{insert some other John Muir-esque individualist, privileged, man-over-nature quote here}” it almost felt wrong NOT to try harder. After all, I could look for a more discreet location, I could bend the rules, I could find a grey area. 

In the end, I know the responsible choice to protect the ones I love and the many who are impacted by my actions. I can stay home. But I couldn’t help but ask myself (during my many, many hours doing mostly nothing), now that we expect connection, wellness, wholeness and so many things from getting out, what do we do when we need to stay home?

We’ve created a culture where nature, connection, and the environment we love is out there, away from us, away from our homes, away from our day-to-day. We think of nature as an escape, a discovery, an adventure. Out there has become a peak to summit, a destination to seek, a viewpoint for a selfie, a place away from it all. We have removed ourselves from nature.

We’ve removed ourselves so well. We try to leave no trace, as if we don’t live in and impact this world every single day. We forget how the trails we use impact the migrations of wildlife, how the waters we love to paddle are being stolen from other organisms, how it is all interconnected and that the actions we take (whether as corporations or individuals) are impacting our world. In the end, nature isn't limited to the out there, but is also the in here.

Our natural world includes places in town, our backyards, foods from over there, and other living beings everywhere. Nature can’t be contained to our trails, scenic views, and nature preserves. Our connection to nature is inherent; we could never lose it by losing access to our favorite trails.

Yes, there’s a reason we love to get out and play. It makes us feel good in so many ways. But, as we retreat home and give our favorite trails, mountains, rivers, beaches, and hikes a rest, let’s remember that nature isn’t what just what happens out there.

Nature includes where we live (our town, our home) and it’s a world that includes us. Can we take this opportunity to relocate ourselves in the natural world?


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