Summertime, for many, is the season for being outside. Barbecues, swimming, camping trips and making s’mores are just some of the ways people celebrate the long days and sunny weather summer has to offer.
In the summer of 1998, the Clinton administration began Great Outdoors Week, which has since grown into a month-long celebration of America’s green spaces. June is Great Outdoors Month, and although the month is coming to an end, there are still ways to celebrate.
Going on mountain expeditions, ski trips or rock climbing outings isn’t possible for day-to-day life during COVID-19. Finances, health issues, lack of access to green spaces and other issues can pose problems for people wanting to go on outdoor adventures. Even if you can’t get outside physically, there are lots of ways to find inspiration for your next —or first— hike or camping trip.
Reading books, listening to podcasts and watching documentaries are good ways to immerse yourself in the beauty of the outdoors without leaving the comfort of your couch. Books like Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, “Wild,” and classics like “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London transport readers to the natural world. Podcasts like “She Explores” and “The Dirtbag Diaries” share stories of people in the outdoors and discuss topics like environmentalism, diversity in the outdoors and the joys and challenges of outdoor recreation. Documentaries and series like “Planet Earth” and “The Dawn Wall” allow viewers to learn more about the world via topics that interest them, like wildlife or rock climbing.
In the golden era of online content, there are lots of Instagram pages which connect the outdoor community. Activist Leah Thomas uses her Instagram to share information about intersectional environmentalism. Melody Forsyth uses her page to share her family’s adventures visiting national parks and insight on what it’s like to travel with her daughter, Ruby, who has Down syndrome. Jimmy Chin is an Oscar-winning National Geographic photographer who posts his images of extreme outdoor recreation. Whatever your outdoor interests may be, there are pages which offer inspiration and information on almost any topic.
Getting outside may seem like the obvious way to celebrate Great Outdoors Month, but sometimes planning outside excursions can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re not used to it. Getting outdoors doesn’t have to mean going to national parks or on pricey road trips; state and local parks can be just as fun to visit for a fraction of the cost. Even going for a walk on your street or camping in your backyard can be good ways to get some fresh air and enjoy being outside.
If you’re going to a park, be sure to check out its COVID-19 guidelines, especially if you’re crossing state or county lines to get there. If you want to avoid travel, the Georgia State Parks website has a map to locate parks near you. The website also recommends staying away from more popular parks and encourages park-goers to practice social distancing.
In addition to making special preparations to visit parks because of COVID-19, it’s also important to practice general outdoor safety measures. This may vary based on the activities you have planned for the day, but it’s always good to check the weather before heading out, pack some snacks and water and have a first aid kit ready.
If getting outside to hike, bike, climb, camp or swim isn’t your thing, you could consider giving back to the outdoor community. This doesn’t necessarily mean getting an REI Co-op gift card for your friend. There are many outdoor-focused charities which give back to the earth and its people.
Many parks and green spaces have nonprofits which help organize fundraisers and cleanups. Other charities support the outdoors by working to help wildlife or engaging communities in their local green spaces. An example of an organization which does both is the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The group protects the Appalachian Trail through advocacy and education and supports the communities the trail passes through.
Other organizations work to encourage inclusivity in the outdoors, by including people of color, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community in outdoor recreation. An example is Camp Founder Girls, America’s first historically Black summer camp for girls. Camp Founder Girls accepts donations that allow campers to attend programs for little to no cost. Another organization is Out There Adventures, which works to provide outdoor recreation and identity development for young members of the LGBTQ community.
Charity Navigator and Charity Watch can be helpful tools for finding legitimate and transparent charities to donate to. Whether you’re donating to an organization based across the country or just down the street, it can be life-changing for people the programs benefit.