Category Archives: Life

The Shrinking Outdoors

Last weekend, a lot of people in the Los Angeles area tried to go hiking, or to the beach, or otherwise outdoors…to the same places. Which ended up creating the crowds that the shutdown was supposed to prevent, just in different places. 🤦‍♂️

So over the last few days, various cities, counties and the state have closed a bunch more parks, beaches, hiking trails and bike paths. It’s still OK to walk in your neighborhood as long as you keep your distance from people, but destination-based going outdoors is mostly off the table now.

Meanwhile the coronavirus continues to spread, and cases continue to climb, driven by people who were exposed before “social distancing” became a thing as they start developing symptoms. And in some cases succumb to them.

It’s been almost three weeks since I last went for a photo walk or a hike in anything resembling more nature than a patch of weeds in someone’s lawn. It feels like a year ago. And they just closed that beach and the paths along the bluffs.

Though I’ve got to say: in retrospect I’m relieved that I couldn’t find parking closer to the pier because of the kite festival, and ended up at a less crowded part of the beach. I could have gotten exposed to Covid-19 the same day the flu hit me, which would’ve been a really fun one-two punch. As it is, the whole household has been mostly isolated since then, and not only have we avoided picking up Covid-19 as near as we can tell, but I managed to not give anyone else the flu. So that’s good.

Back to the outdoors, though. Over the last year or so I’ve realized that getting outside really helps me de-stress. Whether it’s a walk around the block, a search for songbirds, a hike through nature (or a reasonable facsimile thereof), or heck, a search for Pokémon, spending at least some time outside with sky and sunlight makes a difference.

It’s probably going to be mostly walks around the block for a while. Most of the open nature spaces in the area are either closed outright (Madrona Marsh, for instance), or are open but with their parking lots closed (like Hahn Park). Even the bike path where I’ve spotted hawks and scrub jays and a wide variety of plants (not just puncture vine) is closed. The South Coast Botanic Garden is still open for now, but they’ve instituted an appointment system to limit the number of people inside at a time. I’m debating trying to go this weekend. While it’s still possible.

Though to be honest, if the process of getting there and back induces too much anxiety, it’ll pretty much defeat the purpose.

Birds in the Social Distance

I finally recovered enough from the flu to get out for a walk in the neighborhood (while that’s still an option). More people were out than I expected, but they were all either solo or in small groups, keeping their distance.

And it really helped my stress levels. I didn’t even go very far, just around a few blocks and a section of the bike path. I feel a lot better than I did this morning. And I figured sharing some of the photos might help someone reading this!

Small yellow and gray bird hiding its head behind a leaf.

I’m not sure what this bird is (possibly a goldfinch, feel free to chime in on iNat if you know more!), but while I would have liked a clear shot, the photo with it hiding its face is actually more interesting!

Red and gray bird perched on a faucet.

This male house finch’s feathers were such a bright and deep red that I actually thought it was a different kind of bird until I looked more closely at the photos.

Lone crow in a field of grass and wild barley.

And this crow seems like it’s showing us all how to do social distancing!

CA Lockdown Confusion

On Thursday, Los Angeles County ordered that everyone stay at home except for essential activities like buying food, getting medical care, taking care of someone, or going to an “essential” job. Later that evening, California issued a similar order.

But something was unclear: The county specifically mentioned that the guidelines didn’t apply to just going out to walk your dog, hike, or get exercise as long as you maintained your distance from other people and didn’t try to use facilities that were closed, like playground/gym equipment. The state didn’t.

And while I’m reasonably certain that we’re not at the point where they’re going to be arresting or fining people just for walking around the block, I don’t want to be like the guy who explained to Italian police that “I have to hunt the Pokemon” when they charged him for breaking quarantine.

State officials clarified it to the press on Friday:

“Californians can still go hiking and biking outdoors without violating Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “safer at home” order issued Thursday, state officials say. Though many activities have been curtailed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, going outdoors isn’t one of them.”

Good – that explains why South Coast Botanic Garden sent out the notice that they were still open for hiking despite cancelling events. They have stopped taking payments at the gate, though, which is understandable.

And today the state’s official page on the directive features this clarification:

Can I still exercise? Take my kids to the park for fresh air? Take a walk around the block? Walk my dog?

Yes. So long as you are maintaining a safe social distance of six feet from people who aren’t part of your household, it is ok to go outside for exercise, a walk or fresh air.

For now, at least.

Last Walk Along the Coast Before the Virus (No, Not That One)

Sailboats in the distance, ocean spray in the foreground.

Last weekend, before the flu hit me, I tried to de-stress by going somewhere for a photo-and-nature walk. I ended up at the actual Redondo Beach, south of the pier. Partly because there was nowhere to park near the pier due to the Kite Festival, which now that I think of it may have been one of the last big gatherings in the area before everything was canceled for pandemic control.

Parking along the top of the bluffs was still pretty full, but the actual beach was only sparsely populated. Mostly people were using the walking and bike paths at the top and bottom of the bluff. I imagine I wasn’t the only one already trying to avoid crowds while still getting out.

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Flu in the time of Covid-19

Last weekend, after spending Saturday running errands and Sunday taking care of stuff around the house, I went out to de-stress with a photo-walk at the coast, taking pictures of shorebirds, waves, sailboats, sand patterns and a zillon tiny shells. On the way back I started feeling aches and chills, and by evening I had a 101-degree fever and felt kind of like Firestorm.

Everything has pointed to the flu, and it’s been manageable with home care, so I’ve been staying home all week, alternating sick days and remote work depending on how much I can handle each day.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 has continued to spread across the world. Literally the next day, Los Angeles County announced the first confirmed case of community spread. Events are being canceled left and right, schools and museums and even Disneyland are closing, whole countries have implemented quarantines, and it’s become blindingly obvious that it’s no longer possible to contain, we can only hope to flatten the curve and keep the pandemic from overwhelming the health system by hitting too many at the same time.

It’s been a really weird week to stay home sick with something else.

On one hand it’s been kind of a trial run, which is useful. Practicing the extra hand washing, distancing, trying not to get anyone else in the house sick, all that. But on the other hand there’s the understanding that I’m probably going to have to go through it again when one of us gets actual covid-19. There’s a part of me that wants to get it over with, like being sentenced to time served.

I’m not especially worried about us, since we’re reasonably young and healthy to start with, so we’re likely to recover if and when we get it. Probably without hospitalization. But I certainly don’t want to spread it to someone at greater risk, so I’m totally on board with remote working (post-flu) and avoiding crowds.

Still, I hope that there’s a gap between when I’m no longer wiped-out/contagious from the flu and any potential lockdowns in this area (general or just our house). I’d like to be able to do supply runs, though we’ve been building up a bit of a cushion on each grocery trip. I’d like to be able to pick up takeout from local restaurants while they’re open. I may need to pick up a new thermometer since the button on this one has gotten temperamental with all the times I’ve used it this week.

But mostly I want to be able to spend at least some time outside. I get cabin fever. Tuesday I was already pacing the living room between bouts of fatigue. Wednesday I was excited to walk to the mailbox. And that’s only after a few days. I don’t need to be around lots of people. I like outdoor solitude. Hiking nature preserves. Photo walks like the one I did right before the flu hit me. Even just walking circuits around the neighborhood. If I can keep doing that, this will be a lot easier to manage.