GetOut! And Explore Your Neighborhood

Usually on Fridays, our GetOut! feature highlights the guided hikes and other outdoor outings for the weekend. But, these being unusual times, there are no guided hikes or other organized outdoor outings. Instead, this week we encourage you to get out and explore your own neighborhood.

In the beginning — the beginning of March, that is — we had the world to explore. Then, parts of it were taken off the table: a province here, a country there. Soon, our parks were being shut down, campsites closed, vacation cabins padlocked. But we still had our trails.

Until this week. Then they started shutting down trails as well. 

Now, with Shelter in Place orders multiplying like bunnies, it doesn’t matter if our favorite trails are open: we can’t get there anyway. We need to stay home.

But there is a silver lining. 

Shelter in Place orders have exceptions. You can go to the store when you need to, or the pharmacy, or to get gas. And, many orders include an exception for exercise: it’s OK to walk, bike or run in your neighborhood. 

A neighborhood of adventure

That’s good news, because your neighborhood is likely one of the last places you’ve explored.

Think about it: How well do you know your neighborhood? If you have kids, you may know the route to their school, to a nearby park. But how much do you remember about what lies in between? Can you characterize the houses? Can you remember even one house? What about the landscaping? How many gardens can you describe? 

If you don’t have kids, you may be vaguely familiar with the route to your local market (if you have a local market), and how you get to the highway to get to work. But again, what lies in between?

When I moved to our new neighborhood nearly four years ago, one of the first things I did was call up Google Maps and see what surrounded me. Within a mile — walking distance — I found a State Natural Area with more than 3 miles of trail, a county park with about 2 miles of trail,  and a 3-mile greenway that connected with another 3 miles of trail held by two land trusts. Venturing out another 3 miles I found three sections of a university forest with a collective 4 miles of trail, and another county park with 2 miles. Seventeen miles of trail, without even getting in my car! One Saturday early on I did a 10-mile hike out my front door.

And that was just the tip of the iceberg. In exploring these trails I discovered other natural areas that were undeveloped and offered an even purer form of adventure. 

Discover your neighborhood

In short, I discovered, without knowing before I moved in, that I really didn’t need the car for adventure. I had it right here in my backyard. You probably do, too. 

We’re assembling a guide to help you discover what adventures await during your Sheltered in Place existence — and beyond. We’ll talk about how to conduct that first Google Maps search of your neighborhood, about how to identify parks and other natural areas with adventure potential. We’ll talk about what to look for as you explore and where to look for it. We’ll talk about the emerging spring wildflowers, the budding trees, weeds (and examine just what a weed is, anyway). We’ll help you identify the plants that are native to the region, and those that are exotics.

Basically, we’ll help you forget that your world has been shrunk to your neighborhood by showing you just how big your neighborhood really is.

Next week, we hope to have available a guide to exploring your own neighborhood. We’ll also have daily tips up on our GetGoingNC Facebook page. 

In the meantime, some quick thoughts on getting started:

  • Google maps. Our guide will include tips on how to use Google Maps to see what’s in your neighborhood. In the meantime, fire it up, find our house, see what’s within walking distance (hint: look for patches of green).
  • Explore early. Minimize your exposure by getting out early. Sunrise today was at 7:23 a.m., a week from today it’s at 7:16 a.m., a month from today it’s at 6:55 a.m. Fewer people are out early because fewer people have to be somewhere later in the day.
  • Explore late. Minimize your exposure by getting out late. Sunset today is at 7:45 a.m., a week from today it’s at 7:48 a.m., a month from today it’s at 8 p.m.
  • Start easy. If you’re not used to getting out, ease into it. Maybe just take a walk around the block. Speed isn’t the objective. Getting out and living is.
  • Observe Social Distancing guidelines. Basically, give a wide berth to passing hikers — a minimum of 6 feet, we prefer 10, and don’t gather — again, within 10 feet of each other — in groups of more than 10. Find additional guidelines from the American Hiking Society here.

It’s spring, the weekend is upon us. Get out and see what’s happening in your own backyard.

Morning Walk with Joe

Here’s another way we’re helping you discover what’s in your backyard. Every morning at 7:30, we include you for about 15 minutes of our morning walk on Morning Walk with Joe on Facebook Live. We show you what’s in our neighborhood, and offer ideas on how you can discover what’s in yours. Check us out on our GetGoingNC Facebook page.

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