The months of March and April 2020, took me on a somewhat adventurous journey from sea to land. It also tested just about every item in my skill set. Here’s a look at what I’ve been up to in the days of the COVID-19 quarantine.
Fresh back from an extended overseas trip on a major cruise line holding about 5,000 total passengers, I returned to New Jersey on March 15. At the time, it happened to have the second highest reported cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. My plan was simple: Take to the woods for about 14 days of self-quarantine before getting back on an airplane to fly to Georgia. Eventually, I planned to make my way to Alabama for a Randall’s Adventure & Training class, which ended up being canceled along with the rest of the world, so it seemed. As planned, I took the flight to North Carolina, ending up in Tennessee before making my way to Georgia to join lead instructor for Randall’s Adventure & Training, Patrick Rollins, for some woods quarantine time and skills practice. First, I had to get there.
When I left from EWR Airport in Newark, N.J., there was an ominous feeling. I hadn’t experienced before. Social distancing was barely getting started and not enforced at the time of this initial flight. There were about 20 people waiting at about five gates and when I boarded, I was one of just six people on my flight. It was eerie. Upon arriving at my destination airport, I noticed there were no airplanes landing or getting ready to take-off. Signs of canceled flights riddled the screen prompter, I was lucky to make it this far.
Once I arrived, we set up a camp back in the woods behind the house—hammocks, tarps, and a large cargo parachute over the top. This was a “working camp” where I’d spend most of my time, and we had a lot of work to do. Believe it or not, this was a good opportunity to use skills, and experiment with new tools. A time to build things, prepare fire wood, and find new ways to cook using natural resources for cooking utensils, as well as some food, when possible. During this time we cooked in cast iron Dutch ovens, bamboo, bio wood stoves, and open flame. We utilized all sorts of techniques.
Patrick hunted for turkeys in the morning. Then we used the turkey to its fullest. We used stock made from bones, and meat from that to supplement other dishes. We went out to the grocery stores every few days, keeping in contact with the general public as little as was realistic.
The situation seemed to grow over the course of the weeks I was there. Before I knew it, airlines canceled most flights connecting to New Jersey and New York areas. At that point, the concept of the lockdown started to set in.
After two weeks down south, I finally flew back to New Jersey. As it stands, I went back to the woods for more self-quarantining and stealth camping. However, it’s not so much of a “bug out” camp. This isn’t a true survival situation. I’m also not lost and trying to get back to civilization. This isn’t a romanticized, survival scenario, nor am I trying to play it up that way. It’s basically the new normal for me. A new routine that consists of sleeping in the camp and fighting the boredom. All that while venturing out to resupply after a couple of days.
When I do get back to the stores, I try to limit it to maybe two places and pick items that don’t involve too many ingredients. Some things I just do without. Being back in the city area reminds me of the scene from the original 1984 “Red Dawn” when they come out of hiding in the woods and go to the city, only to see how different things really are. The curfew sign in bright yellow and red as they walk past it into the store is eerily similar to our present reality.
With this much solitude during my COVID-19 quarantine, it’s important to be your own friend. It turns out talking out loud is comforting. It seems acceptable to me. When it’s late, well after curfew, I may even play some music, but try to save my battery. After all, I’m not lost. There is communication. Still, I keep the volume low as to not alert anyone in the area. I also keep my fires small and wait until the later hours after curfew to start any.
I see people hiking and walking through the woods—on and off-trail—but they don’t see me, which is how I prefer it. Still, I see many signs around of people taking solitude in the woods. Commonly, I see a lot of lost gloves and water bottles, most likely from hikers. Not to mention, during these days of spring, foot prints are easier to see. Mud is a tracking trap, showing evidence of people and what animals were in the vicinity. Snow also does this. It’s a good opportunity to find some more resources. I have a somewhat, eclectic camp setup with a lot of trail and city finds. It looks sort of like a cross between a hobo camp and a gypsy camp. So, besides looking around, look down—you’ll be surprised what you find.
Others are likely doing the same thing during the COVID-19 quarantine period—camped out, away from crowds. Even with state parks and wilderness recreational locations closed, it doesn’t matter. No matter how people choose to quarantine, why not spend it to better your skill set beyond what you think you already know? One thing is for sure: no time spent building your situational awareness and outdoors skills will ever be wasted time!