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A Walk Around the County 

Photos from a hike a day during shelter in place

We regularly walk the trails at the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Refuge with its accessible walking and biking trails, as well as lots of wildlife. We recently saw an otter at the Brackish Pond.

Image by Mark Larson

We regularly walk the trails at the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Refuge with its accessible walking and biking trails, as well as lots of wildlife. We recently saw an otter at the Brackish Pond.

Sheltering in place since March 11 has been a challenge for my wife, Sydney, and me. We're both in "at risk" categories due to age and we greatly miss our daily face-to-face yoga classes, the gym and many other "normal" activities as we hunker down at home with only a once-a-week trip to the North Coast Co-op for groceries.

Like many others, we started experiencing mental stress — classic "cabin fever" symptoms — and weight gain due to the lack of our usual physical-workout routines. Our first idea to address these issues was to take daily walks in the Arcata Community Forest near our home. We both realized as the first few weeks passed, however, that we were creatures of habit, always retracing familiar trails.

Our solution: We printed a map of the Arcata Community Forest and we challenged ourselves to walk every trail in the forest. We also downloaded the iNaturalist app on our smartphones and began learning at least one new plant every day. This was made easier thanks to the onset of spring.

We accomplished walking every trail in the forest in less than a month. Our new favorites include the South Fork Janes Creek loop and the No. 10, No. 7 and No. 13 trails.

As shelter in place continued, we wondered where else could we go next that would keep our routine of getting out of bed every morning, eat breakfast and go for a walk? Being creatures of habit and having lived here in Humboldt County for more than 40 years, we began walking in old, familiar locations like the Arcata Marsh and Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park.

Our next brainstorm led to our deciding to go to places in Humboldt County that we've never been before to explore and photograph new locations and trails. Back to looking at maps. And to our embarrassment, we discovered we hadn't been aware of the trails around the oxidation ponds in the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary. On one of our first walks there, we saw wood ducks for the first time.

We also recommend guidebooks for location ideas and our favorite is Rees Hughes' Hiking Humboldt (Vol. 2): 101 Shorter Day Hikes, Urban and Road Walks. Soon we were off to new locations like the Ma-le'l Dunes in Manila, the Hikshari' Trail in Eureka and many others. The accompanying photos include a dozen or more of our newly discovered locations — at least new to us. We're looking for more as shelter in place continues.

A few words of advice: Be safe out there by traveling only in-county; hike with a sheltering partner and wear a mask; carry plenty of water and snacks; dress in layers (check the weather forecast and tide charts ahead of time); have a first-aid kit with you; have a fully charged smart phone with a compass with you; carry guide books, maps or photographs of them in your phone; watch out for poison oak; and don't get lost. If you do travel alone, let someone else know your location plans for the day. Enjoy each day and keep a written or photographic journal of your outings, since who knows what you'll find. In the words of naturalist John Muir, "I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in."

Mark Larson is a retired Humboldt State University journalism professor and active freelance photographer who likes to walk. He prefers he/him pronouns.

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Mark Larson

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