If you’re like me, “social distancing” is a term you likely hadn’t heard prior to a few days ago. However, as the coronavirus pandemic spreads to every community across the globe, we’ll likely learn new terms as the unprecedented becomes routine.
The rapidity with which so many schools, businesses, and public gathering places have closed is stunning. No college hoops this weekend, no baseball ‘til mid-May at the earliest and even WWE is going to hold WrestleMania in a ring surrounded by empty chairs. Shoot, between the time I finished this article and when you’re reading it, the world as we experience it could’ve changed again.
And it’s an outpouring of altruism as our communities collectively come together by striving to stay apart…at least for a little while. We all sacrifice now so that in the weeks to come the halls of our hospitals don’t fall victim to the made panic that has left our grocery stores’ toilet paper aisles ransacked today.
Still, there’s only so much Netflix a person can stream.
As an antidote to those feeling too cooped up from corona, I suggest a daily dose of Vitamin Nature. But don’t take my word for it, trust the experts.
A group of epidemiologists published research in last June’s edition of “Scientific Reports” finding that people who spend at least two hours in nature each week are significantly more likely to report good health and well-being – and that extends across ages, genders, jobs, and for people with long-term illness or disability.
Many parents are also trying to educate and entertain children while schools and day cares are closed. Here again, science says nature helps you and your family. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders found children concentrate better after 20-minute nature walks, while a 2012 study in PLOS ONE found people performed 50% better on a “creativity, problem-solving task” after spending four days immersed in nature and away from screens. Improved attention, creativity and problem solving? Those are real benefits whether you’re working from home with children or not.
And if spring’s corona has prolonged winter’s cabin fever thanks to social distancing, take this prescient insight from an October 2018 study published by a group French psychiatric nurses: “Exposure to nature…provided calmness,” “improved mood and pro-social behavior” and “fostered a sense of community belonging, shared purpose and reduced isolation.”
Even in Milan, Italy, where residents in the “red zone” have been ordered to stay indoors, the Washington Post reports, they are encouraged to leave their homes “for the sake of outdoor physical activity” while maintaining social distancing guidelines.
Thankfully, it’s easier than ever before to go from your front door to the outdoors in Sheridan County.
Sheridan Community Land Trust has built and maintains a network of trails on the west edge of town. Soldier Ridge Trail offers four miles of beautiful Bighorn views while Hidden Hoot Trail affords visitors a secluded spot close to town that’s quickly become the most popular trail around. If you want to get a little further away, Red Grade Trails offers six miles of non-motorized ways for people to enjoy the mountains. With so many options, it’s no wonder SCLT’s trails were visited about 20,000 times last year.
Soon, there will be even more reasons to visit. Once weather permits, our trail builder Ronnie will kick off the season by starting work on Kicking Horse Trail and The Link which will connect Hidden Hoot Trail to Soldier Ridge Trail closing the loop to create an SCLT trail and Sheridan Pathways system of more than 14 miles of outdoor recreation opportunity on the city’s western edge. Once complete, he’ll head up the mountain to begin work on the first of 22 new miles and five parking facilities at Red Grade Trails.
As we transition from winter to spring, trails conditions change rapidly, often throughout the day. We ask anyone using the trails to keep an eye on where they ride and step because tires and shoe prints cause damage to the trail that takes a lot of time and energy to fix — often by our amazing network of 200-plus volunteers who have contributed more than 1,500 hours since July 1, 2018, to keep the trails in great condition. As we say, “If you’re leaving tracks, you should turn around and head back.”
Want to know what the trails are like before you go? Join Sheridan Trails Conditions on Facebook, a group where local trail users like you share updates about trail conditions around Sheridan County and beyond. Don’t know where to go? You can view and print trail maps on our website, https://sheridanclt.org. There’s also a map that shows public land and public access in Sheridan County, so you can easily find great places like Tongue Canyon near Dayton and Penrose Park in Story.
Of course, the best news is that the health benefits of Vitamin Nature are good 24/7/365! So, here’s your prescription. Take as often as needed. Unlimited refills.
Chris Vrba is director of marketing and development for Sheridan Community Land Trust.