Update: The governor issued an executive order March 23 telling Oregonians to stay at home, and state parks are now closed. “Individuals may go outside for outside recreational activities (walking, hiking, etc.), but must limit those activities to non-contact, and are prohibited from engaging in outdoor activities where it is not possible to maintain appropriate social distancing (six feet or more between individuals). ”
Just a couple months ago, like many Oregonians, I was in the throes of planning a small spring break trip with my family: a trip to the city up north to go museum hopping complete with a tour of our favorite restaurants and a lazy jaunt down the coast on the way home.
After COVID-19 hit, I realized our trip wouldn’t happen. Though I understood and fully supported the reasoning, I was bummed at first.
Social distancing meant the end of the fun we had so been looking forward to. It’s not often my husband, my 7-year-old and I have the same days off, so I hit the drawing board to brainstorm how we — and other families — could make the most of this extended spring break.
What exactly is social distancing? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s staying out of group settings, avoiding gatherings and keeping a distance of about six feet from others as much as possible.
Nowhere in the guidelines does it say you have to put your life on hold.
But with a little creativity you can take a vacation right in your living room. Thanks to advanced technologies you can travel anywhere on the planet without setting foot in the airport. Aerial tours abound on Google Earth, with some areas allowing you to walk down the streets.
My little one loves taking those Google Earth tours and investigating new places through its maps. Several large museums, including The Museum of Modern Art, The Louvre and the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, offer virtual tours. You can enjoy a world of culture and beauty while wearing pajamas — and it’s free.
There’s truly no shortage of things to do in your house: crafts, board games, documentaries, reading and even gardening with the nice weather coming up. The Seattle Aquarium, Oregon Zoo and many other organizations are also hosting daily live streams that are both educational and entertaining. If you’re feeling fancy and motivated, it’s also a great time to get started on spring cleaning.
But what can you do when you feel like you may go mad if you don’t get out of your house? Where can you take your stir-crazy kids when they are literally bouncing of the walls?
Outside! You can breathe in the fresh air, with plenty of room to have your own space apart from others.
Oregon is filled with amazing natural wonders and an extensive trail system. While we won’t head to the local playground any time soon, this is a great time to get out and explore — especially those places off the beaten path. (See a list of top 10 local hikes in our What’s Happening calendar this week, while they’re still open.)
Several are within an hour’s drive of Eugene, like the McKenzie River and the Santiam sno-parks. Best practice would be to avoid areas of heavy use, and to have a back-up plan. If you arrive at a trailhead that appears to have more foot traffic than you are comfortable with, head to the next.
A bit farther out, the southern coast boasts some of the loneliest beaches in Oregon, like Three Sisters Beach south of Port Orford. And eastern Oregon has no shortage of places to explore: bird watching near Steens Mountain, hiking Hart Antelope National Wildlife Refuge or exploring the old wagon ruts of the Oregon Trail are all options.
I’ll be spending the majority of this corona-cation at home, by the fire with a series of good books. We have a schedule of upcoming live streams from children’s museums, the zoo and a few virtual tours in the works. We also planned a small trip to eastern Oregon, staying at a delightful and very remote Airbnb. Our plan includes stops at Smith Rock, the Painted Hills and the John Day Fossil Beds area. We expect to encounter very few people and plan to eat in at our cabin.
If you do venture out, try to support as many mom and pop stores and small, local businesses as you can. These establishments need the support to stay afloat in these unprecedented times.
Enjoy the extra time with family if you can. Most of all, keep calm, relax — and keep living your life. With precautions, that is.