April 19, 2020, Sitka, Alaska
The instructions are confusing. We’re supposed to shelter at home but are encouraged to go outside for exercise. In spring, when the weather turns nice Alaskans NEED to get outside to crush cabin fever. Sheltering in place makes the need even greater. Saturday the need for outside exercise trumped sheltering at home. We tried to keep social distance but I wonder how safe we were really being.
I set out for the Mosquito Cove Trail, which I figured wouldn’t be too crowded because it’s at the end of the road. I was wrong. More on that in a minute. On the way to the trailhead I passed Sandy Beach. The parking lot was full. Family groups were on the beach. One family was building sand castles, one body surfing, two sitting around lawn chairs on different parts of the beach. There were a lot more cars than people on the beach, folks, like me, sitting behind the wheel, watching the ocean, the mountains and families enjoying the beach.
Further out the road I counted 22 cars at the Halibut Point Recreation area. At the Old Sitka boat launch the parking lot was full of trucks and empty trailers. At the Mosquito Cove trailhead, I saw more cars parked than I have ever seen there.
The park supervisor warned me that there were at least 30 people on the trail. Be careful with my social distancing. We stood about 12 feet apart talking. He said it was crazy. On a normal April weekend there were probably 5 people on the trail at any one time. Today, his count showed a six-fold increase. Some were walking dogs, running them when the trail crosses from state park to national forest where they can go off the leash. Others were having family picnics, some were gathering kelp and herring eggs for their gardens, and some, like me, were just walking.
The supervisor watches over all of all the state parks in Sitka. He said that there were more people than usual at the Halibut Point Recreation area as well. But he said they were following an unusual pattern. Normally it would be large picnics and parties lasting an afternoon. Today people were parking, walking a little or gathering kelp, and leaving. There were more people but they were there less time. The boat launch was as busy as a mid-summer weekend.
On the trail I met my friend Mary. We had a nice chat, at twice the recommended social distance. She was running her dog and thinking about the summer. She’s starting a tourist business and she wonders if she will have any customers, and wonders, if the cruise ships do come, if she wants strangers off of cruise ships getting into her car. She’s concerned that since we’ve had no cases of the virus in Sitka we may be living with a false sense of security. What happens when they loosen restrictions? Is that when we could have our wave? We’re both thankful to be here, where there’s so much outdoors per person. We can each find our space.
I passed 12 people on the trail. We give each wide berth. Most did not wear masks. (I do, Suzi made me some nice ones.) I wonder if 6 feet is adequate.
On the way home I drove past the basketball courts. Kids were shooting hoops, no one-on-one. They were standing apart from each other but were passing a ball. Is that safe or do I worry too much?
In other parts of the country people are protesting against restrictions on personal freedom. They claim it’s because of the lost economic opportunity but the flash points, at least in Michigan, seem to be, restrictions on boating and jet skies and travel to summer lake cabins. In Sitka lots of people are out in boats. Jet skis are running around Jamestown Bay. Summer cabins are not so much of an issue.
But do we take this seriously enough? Most Sitkans don’t wear masks. And while most people are sensitive to social distancing. I see lapses. And I wonder if 6 feet is enough when a jogger, huffing and puffing, passes me.