COVID-19 has changed our modern life in a way that will never be forgotten, as we learn to navigate social spaces and renegotiate safety in populous settings. For those of us lucky enough to have outdoor recreation in our backyard, it has been a wonderful time to explore nearby trails, dust off the bike in the garage, or look at a map to seek out a new adventure. COVID-19 has changed our modern life in a way that will never be forgotten, as we learn to navigate social spaces and renegotiate safety in populous settings. For those of us lucky enough to have outdoor recreation in our backyard, it has been a wonderful time to explore nearby trails, dust off the bike in the garage, or look at a map to seek out a new adventure.
This drive to regain our adventures after COVID-19 hit, has been difficult for everyone. For those that rely on recreation for employment and personal outdoor recreation, it has been especially difficult. My name is Zach Husted and I have worked as a professional ski/splitboard/MTB guide for the past five years. Working through droughts, wildfires, and injury are a few of the obstacles I have encountered while keeping this occupation afloat. This past spring was the start of the most influential pandemic in modern day history and hindered many of us from getting outside and enjoying the places we love most or making a living by leading people on these epic adventures.
In the summer months I work for Western Spirit Cycling, which is based in Moab, UT. Ashley Korenblat has been the proud owner for nearly 30 years and pushed through every hurdle that has come her way. No surprise that once the world shut down, she was working hard to get the grants and funding in order to keep her business going, and employees paid, though government subsidies. Fortunate enough, after implementing a rigorous safety and operations plan, which included COVID precautions, Western Spirit was able to get their big red rigs on the road again and run trips. These trips are typically 4-6 day MTB tours on public lands and national parks, all across the western United States.
This summer my partner, Kara Williard, and I were able to run three trips back to back to back. We started in Hood River, OR, which provided a journey just in getting there, as we made the first trip away from our backyard since March. The thorough safety protocol ensured limited exposure along every step of the trip, to make it safe for our guests and ourselves. The most imperative component, aside from safety procedures, was to ensure our clients would have the very best experience, as we explored our public lands. It is a major aspect of the job to provide our clients the very best care from sunrise to sunset. From fresh fruit salad every morning and custom breakfasts, to refueling with dutch oven lasagna and tasty desserts as we watch the sun go down, Western Spirit is the best service in which to guarantee your every need and comfort will be met.
Our first trip of five people was the largest gathering we had both been in contact with since April. We made a lot of steps in order for everyone to be comfortable. This included foot pump hand wash, everyone wore masks when getting served from a guide, and sitting 6 feet apart around the campfire. All of these steps made the outdoors feel like a sanctuary once again. We all here to ride bikes, eat well, and enjoy the local trails. The next trip we had on the agenda was the Lewis River Singletrack. This tour is packed with epic swim spots at every camp plus tons of northwest trail riding. We spent day three riding along the east side of Mt. Saint Helens into the blast zone along and seamlessly endless pumice field from this 1980 massive eruption. This was a highlight for everyone since it is such a rarity to ride on an active stratovolcano. Limiting shuttle van time and proximity to one another was the biggest crux through the trip.
Guiding at the capacity that we deal with during the pandemic was quite involved when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of our clients. I personally worked very hard to maintain everyone’s comfort level and making precautions to help improve client’s knowledge of the issue.
Making the necessary steps for everyone’s best interest takes planning and initiative. Between the WS office putting in the time and effort to reassure guests, train guides on procedures, and continually assess best practices, while guides take guest safety as topmost priority during a pandemic or not, many guests assured us that this was the safest and most feasible means of traveling and exploring this strange summer of 2020.