Responsible Recreation

Recreation abounds with daycation options

Memorial Day typically marks the beginning of a whirlwind summer season, packed with activities around the Olympic Peninsula. This year is admittedly different. Social distancing rules have forced closures and cancellations of events and locations alike. People are living in limbo waiting to find out when its okay to visit their favorite people and places again. For now, we are expected to stay close to home which makes a destination vacation impossible and a staycation rather dull. Why not take a few daycations instead? Outdoor recreation is open and options in our area are endless. The Chamber encourages you to make the most of Mason County and the surrounding public lands we call our backyard. We have provided a few handy tips and resources to make it easy uncover a few local spots to call your own. 
 
Usually by this time of year visitors are arriving to immerse themselves in our part of the Pacific Northwest. Right now, we pretty much have the place to ourselves. This is the perfect time to reconnect with nature and truly savor surroundings that we typically take for granted.
 
Most Washington State Parks reopened for day use on May 5 per “Safe Start” Phase 1. Mason County’s parks, trails, and boat launches also began permitting access that day. We are also lucky to have vast federal lands within a short driving distance. Although the Olympic National Park remains mostly closed, Lake Crescent area and Sol Doc Road are currently available for day use. Overnight getaways begin this upcoming weekend, May 29, when in-park lodges and resorts are slated to reopen to guests. The Hood Canal Ranger Station at Quilcene advised that trailheads have already reopened but some roads remain closed; check the list of Olympic National Forest recreation sites and closures for updates.
 
Regardless of which park or waterway you choose to explore, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) advocates #ResponsibleRecreation. Basically, the campaign encourages safe and constructive ways to enjoy the outdoors as a means to cope with the Coronavirus. The primary message is pretty simple—practice social distancing and respect some common sense actions:
 
Know before you go
Don’t just show up. This isn’t a good time to be impulsive. Most public spaces are operating with modifications. Be mindful of hours of operation, specific area accessibility, and parking limitations. Do not expect facilities and amenities to be open. With that said, lots of daycation activities are officially allowed, such as: scenic strolls, a wildflower or waterfall hike, backpacking among the evergreens, hunting, fishing, boating, biking, bird watching, and picnicking. Whatever you decide to do, be ready with a backup plan. Checking the status of each place and being aware of requirements will help avoid disappointment. This entails being aware of regulations:
 
  • Permits or licenses required for specific areas
  • Road restrictions for certain vehicles
  • Any fire bans in place
 
Plan ahead
Before you gas up the car and takeoff, make sure you properly prepare for your daycation. Deciding where to visit depends on what you want to do. Looking for inspiration? ExploreHoodCanal lists 20 fun things to do in Mason County and makes it easy to connect to resources. Recreation.gov allows you to search the entire country for public spaces by address or zip code. Try searching Washington State Parks by region or reading the details about each of the 20 Mason County parks to determine what activities are offered where. Consider skill level, elevation and distance of offerings to narrow down your list. Take a glance at 10 hikes in close proximity to Shelton for popular walking options; choose an easy wandering path or stretch your legs on a difficult trail in the woods. Capitol Land Trust invites residents to enjoy its nearby nature preserves which are open to the public. The WDFW website displays a map of state marine areas, state wildlife areas, and has posted dedicated hunting, fishing and shellfishing season updates. Be sure to download online documents like trail maps, park guides or step-by-step setup instructions ahead of time. Do not rely on your cellphone signal or battery life for communication. You will need to bring along separate GPS, maps, radios, and/or device chargers.
 
Don’t leave home without telling someone where you are going, especially if you plan to go solo. Leave a trip plan with a trusted person that documents precisely where you will be exploring with estimated arrival and return times. Provide as many details as you can, including: trailhead names, turnaround points, GPS coordinates, a description of your clothes, names of people or pets with you, and even a photo of your hiking boot. Chances are nothing out of the ordinary will happen, but don’t be one of those people who think it won’t happen to them. Be safe rather than sorry. If the worst-case scenario arises (search and rescue) then the county sheriff or national parks can better organize their teams to find you.
 
Safety first
Adhering to posted signs and public land rules is first and foremost. Be mindful of alerts and conditions. Of course, at the risk of stating the obvious, we must mention the unspoken outdoor code of conduct: respect the wildlife and be aware of your surroundings. Safety, on land or water, requires self-sufficiency. The state has measures in place to promote and enforce boating safety, and hunting responsibly. Knowing how to hike smart is only partly about staying on the trail. No matter what you do outdoors, having the right gear—and knowing how to use it—is paramount.
 
Aside from wearing proper footwear and moisture-wicking attire, carefully pack the ten essentials in order to be have the best experience. This list compiled by REI is a more comprehensive, modernized version of what to bring along. Water is a non-negotiable necessity and each person should have at least two liters per day. Posts by online enthusiast groups also suggest useful items such as: a whistle, baby wipes, zip ties, and solar charged lights. A good bit of stuff on these checklists are dollar store items. For gear, Verle’s, LLC has what you need.
 
Weather can change quickly in mountain regions and a severe change in conditions is a reason to turn back. So is fatigue. Know your limitations and when it’s time to call it a day. You can come back another time. Stay cognizant of the actual time of day; darkness can come quicker than you expect. Always pay attention to landmarks in case you get lost and never change your route. Pay attention to local tide tables and time your adventure accordingly. The unexpected can happen so above all else, have an emergency plan.
 
Lastly, stay close to home and follow the leave no trace seven principals. Find ideas for outdoor escapes from travel blogs. Checkout The Mandagies in particular for places in the PNW. This husband/wife duo has put in the time to summarize all the best places to visit in our state with step-by-step instructions for getting there, what to take and what to do. Their post about 15+ jaw-dropping stops to take on your Olympic Peninsuala Road Trip is a good place to start.
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