Yesterday, the CDC announced that groups of 50 or larger should not be meeting.

Apparently this thing is a pandemic now. That happened several days ago, while I was on hobbling on trail.

Today, I'm in Lordsburg, New Mexico, and the restaurants can operate at only 50% capacity, and there must be 6 feet of distance between all parties.

Of course, you probably know all of this, because this happened weeks ago for you.

More specifically, Covid-19 has hit the collective consciousness of the hiking community.

The concern is this:

Thru-hiking takes you through small towns where there is not a lot of medical infrastructure.

A thru-hiker could carry the disease into these populations, overwhelming the little support they have.

In addition, in the event a hiker gets hurt, what medical support is there, other than what is otherwise needed for the local townspeople?

This assumes a lot about your hiking experience. Most assume that you're being social and congregating often. That is certainly the norm on trails such as the PCT and AT.

The loudest voices in the hiking groups are the most obnoxious. Those declaring absolute moral high ground over anything other than their black and white perspective.

Still. That doesn't mean they're wrong.

So I consider: what are my options?

1) Get on a plane (not social distancing), but only after traveling on a bus, and flying to what is effectively my current home in North Carolina, with my parents in their 70s.

2) Rent a car, traveling through many towns and stopping at gas stations and restaurants along the way, eventually getting "home" with my parents in their 70s.

3) Continue hiking, limiting my contact with anyone, and only dropping into the post office for 2-3 minutes every 5-10 days to pick up a resupply package.

1 & 2 seem like non-starters to me, which leaves 3, although certainly, there are modifications of 1 & 2 that are more palatable.

Part of the problem is that there are many in the hiker groups that are outright lying about these small towns in order to disuade hikers from starting their hikes. This makes it difficult to parse over-reaction from reasonable action.

All the stores are empty! They're shut down! The townspeople don't want you there! You won't be able to resupply!

Except, they're not empty. Because I'm in one of those towns right now.

Except, they're not closed, they're all open.

Except, when speaking directly with the store owners that hikers depend on in those towns, they explicitly do want you to come and patronize their business.

Their margins are small, and they need the hiker season to stay in business. It's easy to claim the moral high ground when you're not connected to the real consequences of a matter.

It's difficult to separate the loud voices of self-proclaimed social justice warriors from the truth, particularly when they claim to speak for those who have no voice, all while explicitly ignoring those voices.

Still.

I want to do the right thing.

I have no problem getting off trail if that's the right thing to do, considering the logistics of actually getting off trail.

I would love to be working on the Mark VI shelter. Or the Mark IV pack. Or finish my quilt. Or finish my down jacket.

Or finally start the custom sleeping pad I've designed.

But.

Flying home does not seem like social distancing. And I'm not sure where I would go. And this isn't just about whether stores are stocked, or small business owners want your business.

What's the greater good?

Getting on a bus seems worse than staying out here.

The loud voices in the Facebook groups do not have an answer for the real-world logistics of those already on the trail, the few of us that started a month before everyone else, even when explicitly prompted.

For now, the best option seems to get back on the trail, wherein I will be around absolutely no one, and check back in a couple of days to see how the situation progresses.

Maybe then there will be a clear path forward.

Until then.

Onward.