If everything else is closed during this historic and challenging halt in social and public life worldwide, there is still one pastime to pursue for active people: the outdoors.
You may not be able to play rugby or some another contact sport with others, but if you’re still healthy and able to stay several feet away from others, you can walk, jog, hike or even lay on a beach without violating essential public restrictions enacted to contain the COVID-19 virus.
While taking pains to avoid the virus, we’re looking for some positive, healthy alternatives to curling up in the fetal position staring at Netflix or TV news reports, particularly in lieu of the closing of gyms in the tri-state area — not to mention the ban on in-restaurant dining and Major League Baseball.
During the first full weekend of the national emergency, March 14-15, just after most entertainment events were postponed or canceled in the state and nation, we headed out to a couple of Connecticut State Parks during the late-winter mild weather (one blessing, at least, during this crisis).
While Boston’s mayor is urging people to “stay home,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state is waiving all state park fees because parks aren’t a “dense environment.” Amen to that. Connecticut already made the smart move of removing use fees from state park visits (an added charge has been incorporated into vehicle registrations), which really facilitates usage by those with low or modest incomes. (And we welcome the country club set to join us at our lovely state parks, as long as they haven’t just flown in from a viral hotspot.)
Sleeping Giant in Hamden, almost unrecognizable from a few years ago after a tornado destroyed many of its trees, was busy with hikers of various ages March 15. A day before, the midday sun provided enough warmth for us to enjoy the beach and natural beauty of Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme — arguably the state’s prettiest and most serene beach.
Earning 10,000 steps on the fitness app was clearly offset by the obligatory stop at Skipper’s Restaurant in Niantic, also next to the Amtrak rail and Long Island Sound. We split the fried seafood platter in the enclosed patio but if that’s not allowed now, you can eat in the car or head nearby to the Niantic Boardwalk to eat on a bench there. (Bring disinfecting wipes, if you can.)
Other highly rated hikes, walks or bike rides we recommend that are unlikely to be canceled by the pandemic:
Kent Falls in Kent and Mattatuck State Forest in Thomaston.
Centennial State Forest, Fairfield.
Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven.
Hubbard Park and Castle Craig in Meriden.
Farmington Canal Trail from New Haven to Southington (great for biking).
Elizabeth Park in Hartford (best in late spring and early summer) and Wickham Park in Manchester.
Talcott Mountain and Heublein Tower in Simsbury.
Hammonnasset State Park in Madison.
Wadsworth Falls in Middletown and Devil’s Hopyard in East Haddam.
Uncas Leap at Yantic Falls in Norwich, with its compelling storyline.
These are weather-dependent, of course. Do take virus precautions, avoid hand railings and close contact with others. But if you feel up to it, you’ll be adding to your health and sense of calm during an anxious and dizzying time in our nation’s history.