Plan B: 6 Ways to Keep Your Adventures Local

Not all adventures go as planned. Sometimes the snow and avalanche danger on your hut trip means you spend more time stoking the wood stove and less skiing. Sometimes wildfires close the area you scored backpacking permits to six months ago. Sometimes en route to a big Pacific Northwest volcano climb, your flight is delayed and you miss out. And sometimes a global pandemic freezes travel and forces you to get reacquainted with your living room and local adventure spots. It wouldn’t be an adventure otherwise.

Staying close to home has never been more important right now—Both for your own personal health and that of your loves ones, but also for our Northeast community at large, especially those in small adventure hubs. But just because you can’t pack the car and bust up to North Conway for a long weekend on Mount Washington, that doesn’t mean you can’t still adventure and spend time outside. Use these six tips to look to your back yard for new inspiration and to keep the legs moving and lungs stretched when the world feels shut down.

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1. Explore your neighborhood park.

The front lines of the outdoors, local neighborhood parks are an oasis within reach, and the perfect place to go for a quick hit of fresh air, leg stretching, and a reset from screens, puzzles, and baking bread. Normally, when there are other places to go for a big hike or climb, it would be easy to stick to running the paved paths or hanging around the jungle gym with the kids (skip the touchy-feely swing sets, monkey bars, and slides for a little while). Now with ample time, slow down, wander off the beaten path, explore side trails, and check out the more obscure corners of your local green spaces.

2. Step up your fitness

With gyms closed (and restaurants, if we’re being honest with ourselves) and big objectives on hold, there’s never been a better time to turn your local adventure zone into your gym and make some fitness gains before things open back up and your life list is back in action. The trail you love to hike? Run it. That new perspective can turn old trails new again, and exploring it with some tunes in your ears and a focus on your own personal health makes running or biking a little less lonely than simply walking solo.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Earn your turns at your local ski resort

The lifts might not be spinning, but that doesn’t mean your ski season needs to be completely done. With touring gear, many resorts (check their websites or call to confirm) still allow uphill access: Skinning up the trails on your own and skiing back down. Not only is it a phenomenal workout and a fun way to keep your season alive, but it may be the best way to be introduced to a new winter activity. Even when the resorts do open back up, having the gear and experience necessary to get into the backcountry on skis is a great way to access the winter woods and a fun way to seek out powder turns. And one of the best ways to pick up the skills necessary is on a graded resort slope.

Keep in mind: One of the big benefits of uphilling at a resort during a typical ski season is that when mountains are open, ski patrollers are putting in the time to making sure the terrain is safe, obstacles are marked, avalanche danger is mitigated, and they’re there to lend a hand if you get into trouble. With the resorts closed, that is no longer the case. Plan for a day at the resort like a day in the backcountry, where you’re alone, need to be self-sufficient, and expect that help is a long ways away. Also stick to mellow terrain and know the basics of avalanche safety and rescue.

4. Start redlining your local trails

Even in our backyard wilderness, too often we focus on the flashy hikes and trails: The big summits, pristine lakes, and most popular trails. After all, they’re popular for a reason. But without the option to travel very far in search of new routes, it might be time to give those overlooked trails another glance. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy them. “Redlining,” or hiking every length of trail in a given area, definitely takes this idea to the extreme. But use this opportunity to get intimately familiar with your local trails, hiking some that you had never thought of exploring. Take a different route to that favorite spot. Go the long, “around the back” way. Camp on another, smaller lake and hike the summits that maybe have the best views. If you need a challenge and a “checklist” to work on, pin up a map of your local forest and make an effort to highlight every trail that you’ve hiked, and head to some of the obscure spots that you haven’t explored yet. If you think you knew the area before, just wait until you’ve seen corners of it that few ever do.

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5. Stay hyper local

Just because you can’t get away from the house doesn’t mean you need to forgo the pleasantries of camping. If you have a back yard, set up a tent and build a small fire pit. The kids will love it, you’ll get to enjoy a little more fresh air than you might cloistered in your house, and there’s just something about the smell of a campfire, cool air on your face while you’re tucked into a sleeping bag, and waking up with the morning light that recharges you, regardless of whether you’re 50 miles into the backcountry or 20 feet from your back door.

6. Stay in and plan your next adventure

As bad as things may look, we know one thing: This won’t last forever. Eventually, travel bans will be lifted, restaurants will re-open, flights will hit the air again, and you’ll be able to head out on that big cross-country road trip or that life list backpacking mission a few states over. Life will get back to normal. And now is the time to start planning for that. Keep in the adventure mindset by using this time shut indoors to study guidebooks and maps, sift through Caltopo, draw up your life list, and plan the trips to come. The adventure itself is only half the fun. Dive into the planning now and spend time dreaming up the missions you’ll head out on as soon as the time comes.

Whatever you choose to do to spend your time this spring, be safe, follow the CDC’s guidelines for preventing COVID-19, and don’t let your stoke die.