You’ve got it! “ Social-Distancing-Quarantine-Itis”… We all do! You can’t wait to get outside for fresh air and some wide open spaces, but how to do it safely? Here in the Great Smoky Mountains, we’re anxiously awaiting the Park to re-open so we can hike, backpack, fly fish, mountain bike, plus enjoy the springtime wildflowers and wildlife. Here in Bryson City, we’re also anxious to begin working with visitors coming in the area again to whitewater raft, zip line, horseback ride, kayak, paddle board and boat on Lake Fontana.
What happens when the “Stay-at-Home” order lifts and the great escape begins? How do we keep our families safe in the great outdoors when the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the “most visited park in America”? How do we “stay six feet apart” from other trail users, and what should be the new normal of social distancing on trails, and during other adventures?
Here’s our list of fun adventures we think can help you have fun, keep social distancing, and our thoughts on how to be safe during these activities.
Hiking – one of the favorite past times here in the Smoky Mountains. The National Park Service had to close the Great Smoky Mountains National Park around spring break time when the virus was gaining momentum. Even though the national stay-at-home orders were beginning, 30,000 visitors a day were still coming to the park. Carolina Bound Adventures has a full menu of guided hikes including half day, full day, waterfalls and sunset hikes. When you come to hike, try these 10 safety tips :
- Bring along a face shield. We like the lightweight, stretchy material products affectionately known as a “buff”. (or “gaiter”) Wear it around your neck and it helps keep you cool, and when needed, is quick to pull up over your face.
- If the trail is wide, groups tend to walk side-by-side. Walking single file can help keep the “six feet plus” if other hikers approach.
- If another group is approaching from the other direction, stop & pull up your face mask until well past one another.
- Avoid touching hand rails on bridge crossings, stair ascents and descents. This is a hard one because we’ve been conditioned to “hold the handrail”. Bring that hand sanitizer with you too!!
- How fast is your group hiking speed? Some people walk faster and need to pass. A courtesy “shout-out” can aid in distancing: “Coming around!” Or as we like to say it in this area, “Coming around y’all!”
- On multi-use trails if you’re not aware of this best practice, bikers always yield to runners and hikers. If you’re biking, please extend this courtesy!
- Avoid the “post hike party”. Often times it’s common to enjoy a post hike gathering. Maybe enjoy an adult beverage or two. We’re all for that, except maybe not in this time of the virus. Congregating in a parking lot may not be the best place to protect yourselves and others.
- Know your trail. If you are genuinely concerned about protecting yourself, know what you’re getting yourself into. We have many trails here in the Smokies that are wide, old logging, and now forest service roads with plenty of space to move out of the way for others. But many of our trails here are “single track”; very narrow and impossible to keep six feet or better from others. We like the App called AllTrails which is very user friendly and provides you all of the information you’d ever need about a trail system.
- Be a good citizen. Please pack out your trash. During the virus nobody wants to touch other people’s things… especially their trash. Please don’t leave your trash on the ground next to a trash can and please, whatever you do, don’t litter on a trail. Click here to learn more about the 7 principles of Leave No Trace and how to protect wildlife and the environment.
- Consider the Fee Box. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is one of the only parks in the United States that does not charge an entrance fee. Your donations to a trailhead Fee Box help fund education programs, historic preservation, wildlife conservation, trail maintenance, the protection of natural resources and more. It’s appreciated!
Mountain Biking – Tsali Recreation Area is right here in our back yard, and one of the premiere mountain biking trail systems anywhere in the United States! At Carolina Bound Adventures, when we’re out guiding a bike ride or just on our own fun time at Tsali, groups of riders are typically spread far apart because of the 4 separate trails available. Also:
- Bring that buff! It’s not uncomfortable during a ride, cools you, and you can pull it up if you encounter other riders
- Follow the “Suggested Route of Travel”! We admit it… we do ride the other ways at times, just to enjoy a different view. But in these times, we’d recommend taking the suggested route.
- Apply many of the same suggestions made above to your biking adventure and then go out to have fun!
Lake Kayaking & Paddle Boarding. Here at Carolina Bound Adventures we offer Guided Lake Kayaking & Paddle Boarding, or rentals of kayaks and boards for self adventuring. Come play with us! Here’s our new guidelines for this year to keep you safe:
- We are asking all Guests this year to use our provided hand sanitizer upon arrival and use of our equipment.
- After Guest use, our boards, kayaks and paddles will be hosed down and sprayed with Lysol.
- Our Personal Flotation Devices (PFD’s / Life Vests) will be dipped in a bucket of disinfectant and hung to thorough dryness.
- Social Distancing on a paddle board or kayak is easy! Fontana Lake is 11,000 acres… if you see someone else, paddle the other way!
Horseback Riding In the Smoky Mountains, this is one of the favorite adventures! The tour has a Guide on a lead horse, and all other horses follow in a line. This is easy social distancing because of the size of the animals! Also when making a reservation ask what the slow times are to get in a smaller group. Come take a horseback ride and see the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Guided Fly Fishing – This is another easy adventure to social distance, and have a fabulous day at the same time! Easy because a Guided Fly Fishing trip here includes a Guide, and is limited to two or three participants. There are half day and full day guided trips available and fly fishermen keep their distance from each other naturally.
The reopening is coming! On April 30th, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park posted a press release that they are beginning a phased reopening of the Park on May 9th. We don’t take getting back online lightly at Carolina Bound Adventures. It’s going to require all of us to be responsible. We’ve all learned what it’s going to take to make things safe. When it’s time, you know the place to get rid of your “Social-Distancing-Quarantine-Itis”… Bryson City and the Great Smoky Mountains. We hope to see you soon!!