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11 virtual escapes for your COVID-19 quarantine

11 virtual escapes for your COVID-19 quarantine

Restrictions on travel and outdoor recreation remain in place in Colorado for the foreseeable future, so get your wanderlust fix from your couch with these online experiences.

May 1, 2020

By Kathleen St. John

If there’s one thing Coloradans don’t like, it’s staying home. But new COVID-19 restrictions mean they’re going to have to stick close to home through at least May 27.

Gov. Jared Polis’ “safer-at-home” executive order issued Sunday loosened some restrictions on people’s movement starting this week as the state continues its fight to flatten the COVID-19 infection curve. But outdoor enthusiasts were disappointed to learn the order didn’t relax restrictions on recreation.

Under the order, Coloradans are not to travel more than 10 miles from their homes to recreate. That means activities such as hiking, biking, skiing, fishing and rafting. “Travel for recreational purposes should be limited to your own community, like your county of residence,” the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s public-health order said.

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But that doesn’t mean you have to loaf around the house dreaming of sunny hikes and spring skiing. There are plenty of options for outdoor fun in the metro area – or even virtually, said Lincoln Davie, an assistant professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver's School of Hospitality focused on outdoor recreation.

“Now is not the time to choose activities high in risk that have the potential of emergency-room visits,” Davie said. “Venturing off to remote locations comes with risk. If you were to become lost or injured in these remote landscapes, you would place undue burden on search-and-rescue members.”

Davie recommends looking for “microadventures,” a term coined by Alastair Humphreys, 2012 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. Put simply, a microadventure is any activity, however small, that gets you outside and active.

“There are many ways to engage in outdoor recreation, and now is a great time to explore your local, close-to-home options,” Davie said.

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He recommends a walk to a park, a long bike ride or even fishing along the South Platte River.

Of course, Davie stresses the importance of responsible microadventuring: Keep your crew to four people or fewer, wear a mask, bring your own hand sanitizer, and practice 6-foot physical distancing. (He notes it’s worth considering whether you’ll need to use a public restroom, especially if you have pre-existing health concerns.)

If you’d rather not risk an outdoor trek, Internet exploration is a great option. Here are Davie’s picks for some Colorado-style online odysseys, plus a few more we scouted from the comfort of home:

Outdoor films

A one-stop shop for awesome outdoors filmmaking, the Banff Center for Arts and Creativity hosts the finalist films from its 2018 and 2019 festivals. Watch more than a dozen short films on a grab bag of fascinating subjects such as skijoring, free diving, extreme endurance running and whitewater rafting.

Work on your rock-climbing skills in bed

Denver Mountain Guiding has online classes for $10 a pop – choose from videos such as “Advanced Rappelling Techniques,” “Belaying From Above” and “Intro to Multi-Pitch Climbing.”

Bring the Denver Zoo to you

Revel in the cuteness with Denver Zoo’s baby-rhino cam. Born in February, the little gal is growing not-little by the day, though she still stays close to her mama in the Elephant Passage exhibit. Check in to see how she’s doing and cast a vote to choose the calf’s name.

Support your national parks

National parks are largely closed due to the pandemic, but you can still make a virtual visit. Yellowstone has a streaming webcam trained on the Old Faithful geyser – if you’re lucky, you might tune in during an eruption. In Alaska, the bears of Katmai National Park go about their bear business on multiple cams. Try the underwater cam in Channel Islands National Park’s kelp forest to calm rattled nerves.

For more national-park adventures, check out the collection of interactive tours on Google Arts and Culture. See highlights of lesser-known parks such as Dry Tortugas, Point Reyes and Pinnacles.

Explore new lands

This is the treasure trove: Explore.org hosts livestreams of animals and places all over the world. With a few clicks, you can pop from a nest of eagles in Iowa to a gorilla sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo to a whale-research lab in British Columbia. You can also just zone out to footage of the aurora borealis or views from the International Space Station.

Venture down under

Say, 'g'day' to Australia through Webcam Sydney, a live view of Sydney Harbour. The shot shows traffic on the Harbour Bridge, the front of the Opera House and the city’s soaring skyline.

Hit the High Country

Still longing for that Colorado high country? Pay a virtual visit to Telluride with this live webcam. The camera shows the comings and goings of downtown Telluride, panning back and forth along Main Street.

Hang ten

Watch the waves at Waikiki Beach: The Hilton Hawaiian Resort hosts this livestream with a bird’s-eye view of sparkling sand and shimmering waves – though it’s now a little eerie to see the beach nearly deserted.

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