Bubonic Plague, the so-called Black Death, ravaged Europe again and again through the late Middle Ages, starting in Sicily in 1347. There were recurring outbreaks that ravaged whole countries. The numbers of deaths stagger the imagination. In the first half of the 17th century, plague claimed 1.7 million victims in Italy. The four-year outbreak of 1347 to 1351 killed from 75 to 200 million people. Plague hit London in 1665, one final time, killing an estimated 100,000 people.
If you had to read stories from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales at some point in your education, you were sampling literature that came out of the Plague, as the stories are from a group of people making a pilgrimage to the cathedral in Canterbury.
One of the reasons the people were making a pilgrimage was to escape crowded cities where people were dying in droves. In short, they got out of town and went camping, and what do people do in the evening, sitting around the campfire? They tell stories, of course.
The current novel coronavirus global pandemic hopefully won’t be as bad as the plagues that ravaged much of the medieval world, but going camping might be a good idea for getting away from people who might be carrying infection. It’s just another way to achieve social separation.
Of course, it’s still March and while we might have weather suitable for camping one day, on the next day it might be more like a winter survival exercise.
In any event, getting outside is one way to enjoy life while we’re avoiding people. Here are some of my ideas of things to do outside in early spring.
Go fishing. Many lakes, such as Georgetown Lake, are still frozen and people are still drilling holes in the ice and dropping a line. Ice fishing is kind of a sociable sport, of course, but it shouldn’t be too hard to maintain safe separation. My preference for fishing is fly-fishing and that’s kind of the definition of a solitary outing. If there are other anglers around, they normally strive to give others wide berths so as to not mess up each other’s success.
I originally suggested downhill skiing as an option for getting outside and maintaining social separation. Discovery Basin, our local ski area, west of Anaconda, was open last week and I was able to get in one last day of skiing. That’s no longer an option as they closed for the season on Sunday, March 22, after consultation with Granite County officials.
Cross-country skiing is still a great option, as we should have several more weeks for getting out, whether at developed areas or just freelancing out in our public lands.
Go hiking, or go for a walk. Whether you want to take a walk around the neighborhood or go out on a trail into some of our public lands, the opportunities are virtually unlimited.
If the weather is bad, or you just want to stay in, there are things to do that will connect you to the outdoors.
This would be a good time to tie flies, or to learn fly-tying. If you have kids at home getting restless, this could be a good time to teach them to tie flies.
This could also be a good time to build yourself a new flyrod. You can order rod-building components through a number of dealers, many of which are online. I’ve built a number of rods over the years and it’s a fun project to build a fishing pole that is uniquely personal.
With both fly-tying and rod building, if you’re a beginner, there are endless YouTube videos demonstrating how to do just about anything.
In any event, with so many of our organized group activities being shut down for an unknown duration, there is a serendipitous gift of time—time to do things or to learn new skills. Make the most of it, and stay healthy doing it.