Cabin fever.

Anyone who’s lived somewhere with extended winter weather and snow knows what that means.

Too much time indoors can make a person go crazy. Or sick.

Now, the whole world is getting to experience this in spades.

Day after day of staying inside, trying to restrict our interaction with others. There’s only so much internet surfing and book reading one can do.

I need the crunch of my hiking boots on the gravel, the smell of pine trees, the brisk air hitting my cheeks.

Fortunately, for those of us who live here in Nederland, high in the Rocky Mountains, this is still an option. In a town of only 1500 people where most of us live off dirt roads among the forest, we can still go out for a walk and practice “social distancing.”

And the benefits of communing in the great outdoors have never been greater.

When we can feel overwhelmed by the state of affairs, the world we live in, going outdoors can literally be life-saving. I can only take so much doom and gloom, and need an escape. Seeing a herd of elk traipse through a meadow reminds the world is not lost forever. Seeing an Abert’s Squirrel grab a cone and scurry up the rosy trunk of a Ponderosa Pine brings a smile to my office, even if only momentarily.

I think how much harder dealing with this pandemic would be living in skyscraper in New York City would be. Even attempting to leave the building would be scary. Riding the elevator with other people may endanger you life, much less walking down the sidewalk to the local park.

But even here in the high country of Colorado, heading outdoors right now can have its risk.

In ways that are obvious, and others that are not.

If you take your outdoors pursuits to places where everyone else goes, you are not helping prevent the spread of Coronavirus. You are simply moving it through geography.

I saw this first hand this weekend in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. We went for a drive and met a work colleague for her to hand off some office equipment for telework. The parking lots were packed.

“By the time we left, Leslie, there must be over a hundred cars there!” she exclaimed.

This is not social distancing. There is one bathroom open at Brainard Lake Gateway Parking lot. If all anyone does is use that bathroom, they risk spreading this deadly virus.

Even if they spread their group out six feet apart and avoid other people at all costs.

Nederland is the biggest community in the foothills between Idaho Springs and Estes Park. We have no medical clinic and no pharmacy. It is much harder for rural communities to get medical help for the seriously ill.

We have one post office and one grocery market that just about everyone in our town is frequenting right now. All it takes is one person going snowshoeing at Brainard Lake to spread the virus through our tiny town.

These are the exact reasons the mayor of Estes Park pleaded with officials to shut down Rocky Mountain National Park.

Don’t go somewhere outdoors only to congregate with others and put us at risk.

Go outdoors, breathe fresh air, but be responsible about it.