In many ways … In many minds … In many households … Covid-19 spoiled 2020. It took us by surprise, caused us to lose our sense of direction (along with a sense of smell and taste for some), tripped us up, and then kicked mud all over us. But not every path the Corona Virus led us down was a total loss. In fact, there were probably at least a few instances that the events of this strange year actually cleared some minds, changed some habits (for the better, of course) and united some households. It sure put a giant hop, skip and jump into the step of the state and national park systems.
A Nationwide Lockdown
The closures or temporary closures of many indoor venues had a vast majority of the population holing up in their own houses. But when these folks did venture out from behind closed doors, the most popular destinations seemed to be state parks and national park sites. Early in the pandemic this was not the case, as many government-operated park locations closed their gates. As more research was completed and additional information on the spread of the virus was uncovered, the rules changed and so did our human behaviors.
Domestic airline traffic was down over 60% in most areas and global air traffic was reduced by over 90%, but people refused to be totally locked down. Community mobility reports showed a dramatic rise in trips to almost any outdoor park. City parks, county parks, state parks, national parks, heck, even dog parks started drawing huge crowds. On average, National Park visitor statistics showed a dramatic increase of nearly 20% in the months they were open during 2020.
This throng of visits to the National Parks closely mimics a similar trend during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that killed hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens in a matter of months. The year after that pandemic, National Park visits continued their historic rise with a nearly 23% increase. The good news is that the worldwide tragedy prompted many people to rediscover a preference for, sometimes even a need for, outdoor activities.
Was the same true for 2020? We certainly believe so. Many individuals felt safer outdoors. Trailhead parking lots were overflowing all summer long. Even the most remote hiking trails were not so secluded anymore. How would we know this? Because we spent many hours exploring over 20 state parks and dozens of county parks and recreation areas ourselves this year. New scenery was seen. New trails were trekked. New life was lived in an otherwise dreary year.
Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021 Promises!
So as the clock struck midnight on the year of the pandemic, pandemonium struck the New Year’s resolution world. I would be willing to bet that along with the diets and the promises to quit smoking, lose weight or organize the closets, one of the top resolutions for 2021 probably is to get outside and exercise more. To many people, this means visiting a bunch of parks and exploring the hiking trails again. At Park Yourself Outdoors, we truly hope this is a resolution path that the majority of us are able to keep. But regardless of the number of miles we log in 2021, Meandering Mike and Parker Flatly promise to continue providing outdoor stories, recipes, tips, travel location suggestions and plenty of other outdoor stuff. Best of all, we look forward to having you by our side, every step of the way!
Does your new year’s resolution have an outdoors theme to it? How many new National Parks, State Parks, County Parks or Hiking Trails did you visit in 2020? We’d love to hear your answers to either one of, or BOTH of these questions! For good measure, we’d love to hear your favorite park recommendations! Drop a note in the comments box below or shoot us an email at ParkYourselfOutdoors@gmail.com, as this pandemic might have all of us watching our step on extended travel for a while longer.
Wondering where Meandering Mike and Parker Flatly are going to park themselves next? Well wonder no more! Never miss another post – sign up for E-mail Notifications here! Thanks for reading. Stay safe and Stay outdoors as much as you can!