Going stir crazy in quarantine? Take a hike

Two young women walk their dog in Marin County during the shelter-in-place.

With much of the country under either voluntary or forced lockdown, people cooped up in their homes working on computers and millions of children out of school, there is one breath of fresh air.

Hiking is allowed under most coronavirus lockdown orders. 

Health officials in San Francisco announced it is still OK to take the dog for a walk or to go on a bike ride or hike, as long as you stay six feet apart from someone, despite a regionwide shelter-in-place order mandating people stay home unless they were providing essential work or had to go to the doctor or grocery store. It's even OK to drive there.

"I've got a 21-year-old and an 18-year-old both at home, doing online classes now," said Vanessa Friedman, who lives in Marin County. "If I couldn't take a hike, it would be a very difficult situation."

Moments after California Gov. Gavin Newsom called for seniors to stay home and bars to close on Sunday, dozens of families braved the inclement weekend weather and took to the hills.

Dozens of families, who might normally have been at the movies or the gym, were out on the trails of Berkeley, Calif., putting one foot in front of the other and smelling fresh air, despite the rain and clouds. 

Setenay Frucht of Oakland said she felt pretty anxious hearing the lockdown orders, but then she took a walk around Lake Merritt.

"I got myself outdoors and started to feel much better," she said. 

In a note to her constituents, California State Sen. Nancy Skinner noted how "drastic" the measures were to stay at home, but she added: "It's OK and healthy to go outside to engage in outdoor activities like walking or running, as long as you and your family can avoid coming into close contact with others."

The East Bay Regional Park District closed its visitor centers and campgrounds and canceled events, but realized that the trails needed to stay open.

"We understand that nature is a great place to get exercise and rejuvenate your mind, body and soul – especially in time of crisis," the district wrote on its site. "A walk on a trail, around your neighborhood or private backyard will allow you to breathe fresh air and help to reduce stress and anxiety."


Claremont Canyon hiking trail in Oakland (Milah Gammon)

The Bay Area shelter-in-place orders:

Stay home and only leave for "essential activities" or "essential travel." The counties' health order describes the items below as essential travel, essential activities:

  • Tasks essential to your family's health and safety, including your pets
  • Getting necessary services and supplies, including groceries, prescriptions
  • Delivering such goods to family members or others
  • Going to appointments or obtaining services at any healthcare facility, including veterinary care (but not gyms)
  • Travel to care for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons. Including pets
  • Travel to educational institutions to receive materials for distance learning or meals and other related services
  • Travel related to providing or accessing services exempted in the order