Why I’m Still Planning Trips for ‘After’ the Coronavirus

By Michael Lanza

It feels very weird lately to be posting blog stories about “The 5 Southwest Backpacking Trips You Should Do First” or “The Best Backpacking Trip in Glacier National Park.”

It also feels very weird to be making plans for trips this summer—as I am doing—while we all hunker down in our homes in the planet-engulfing shadow of a horrifying pandemic that has already claimed thousands of lives and threatens to kill millions worldwide, perhaps millions just in America.

It seems a little tone deaf to think about backpacking at a time when schools and colleges are closed across the country and the children we’ve exhorted for years to get outside are closeted in their homes and bedrooms because indoors seems like the safest place.

When national parks are closing out of concerns about spreading the coronavirus.

A young boy backpacking the Wonderland Trail in Mount Rainier National Park.
My son, Nate, backpacking the Wonderland Trail in Mount Rainier National Park.

When so many people are out of work or losing critical income, and city streets and playgrounds look like ghost towns, and medical clinics and hospitals are starting to get overwhelmed (even though it has clearly barely begun) and it feels dangerous just to walk into the supermarket.

Fear of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has gripped us possibly more than any viral, mass fear has seized entire populations in decades.

Like many of you, I’m thinking about my family and their safety—every minute of every day, it seems lately. While we have plans for this summer, we will, of course, cancel them if there are lingering concerns over a public-health threat or our safety—because we don’t know how long this emergency will last—or if financial circumstances just don’t permit us to go.

Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside, which has made several top outdoors blog lists. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip. Please follow my adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube.


Sunset at Idaho's City of Rocks National Reserve.
Sunset at Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve.

But I also reflect on how much the countless wonderful times we’ve spent together outdoors have brought us so much closer together as a family. We have fondly looked forward to the rafting and kayaking and climbing plans on our calendar for June and backpacking trips in July.

Such hopes feel appallingly trivial even as I type those words—and at the same time, they feel critical to helping us regain a sense of normalcy, to believe that the world will someday be healed again, mostly, and that we will carry on.

Watching the sunset from a campsite in the North Fork Cascade Canyon, Grand Teton National Park.
Watching the sunset from a campsite in the Tetons.

That’s why, even as this crisis appears on the verge of exploding to the worst-imaginable scenarios, I have been quietly making plans and applying for backcountry permits for trips later this summer—trips I hope will happen. I have two backpacking permits for July, a third for mid-September, and I’m applying for a fourth in late August to early September.

If I can’t take any of these trips, I’ll be out just the small cost of a permit application. If I can take them, not only will my family, some friends, and I enjoy much-needed, psyche-rejuvenating escapes, but we will be supporting local businesses, tipping waitresses, and helping the people whose livelihoods depend on those of us who will eventually return to national parks and other wild spaces and the communities surrounding them.

I intend to continue posting stories at The Big Outside because I believe our current situation will turn around and everyone—including you and my other readers—will want and need to get out again and enjoy the very activities, places, and people that make life fulfilling.

I will keep producing the stories that give you ideas and information for your next trip because I believe you want to read them.

I will help you plan your next trip if you want my help, because I am still hearing from readers who want to plan trips, in spite of all the uncertainty—or just maybe because of all the uncertainty.

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A hiker in early morning above Stillwater Canyon on the Green River in Canyonlands National Park.
Early morning above the Green River in Canyonlands National Park.

In the weeks and months ahead, we will all have our own sets of priorities and choices to make in the best interests of ourselves and the people we love.

For now, I will vigilantly follow all public-health behavior recommendations and orders so that nothing I do endangers other people. (If you still cling to any doubt about the coronavirus threat, watch this video message from Italians.)

I will get out on our local trails as often as possible, exchanging very brief, friendly greetings and nods of mutual understanding with people I pass at a social distance—because especially at times like this, we need little doses of nature more than ever.

I will enjoy the company of my family while I simultaneously hold tightly to the belief that we will emerge okay from this dark and challenging time.

I will do these things, most of all, because I need to embrace hope. Sometimes, hope is what keeps us going.

May you and yours remain healthy, celebrate every day together, and be very, very safe out there.


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6 thoughts on “Why I’m Still Planning Trips for ‘After’ the Coronavirus”

  1. Thank you so much for your words of hope and encouragement here. I really needed to read this today. Our family is continuing to make plans and reservations for a cross-country trip we have scheduled for the fall. Looking forward to those family adventures is a coping strategy during an uncertain time like this, and I know we will appreciate those adventures even more when we are able to do them. All the best to you and your family – I hope you are able to get out there soon.

  2. Michael,

    You have a great knack of imparting insight when it is needed most. I have had one of my Baffin Island trips cancelled for all the right reasons. To protect the Inuit residents from a COVID-19 infection. My August Baffin trip is also at risk of being cancelled.

    It was depressing but then I gave myself a kick in the pants and started thinking about my blessings. A beautiful wife, inspiring step-son, amazing step-daughter and two wonderful grand daughters. Good health as I charge through my 70th year on this amazing planet. If my planned trips do not materialize I spend more time with my family and find trips locally. Not such a hardship.

    And…plan for others. Including a Yukon adventure in September.

    Michael, to you, your family, your friends and all of your readers. Be safe. Never let your dreams fade and die.

    • Thank you for those kind and thoughtful words, John. I’m not surprised your May trip to Baffin was canceled; I hope you can still go later this summer. None of us, of course, would want to be the cause of a disease outbreak, particularly not in communities that face enough struggles.

      You be safe as well, my friend.

  3. Great article. While planning a trip can be a double-edge sword, on one side planning an adventure can be exhilarating and on the other hand a downer cause we can’t go now under the circumstances, it can be a great diversion as we all shelter in place. Also, gives us something to look forward to as much as the holidays with family and friends.