Guest Column

Social distancing, Wyoming style

By Dr. Mike Tracy
Posted 5/29/20

Many of us are looking for ways to stay fit with friends while keeping distance from one another. Wyoming is the perfect place for three-season hiking fitness that is conducive to group social …

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Guest Column

Social distancing, Wyoming style


Many of us are looking for ways to stay fit with friends while keeping distance from one another. Wyoming is the perfect place for three-season hiking fitness that is conducive to group social distancing recommendations. It is an activity that can be done alone or in small groups.

There are also numerous health benefits with hiking. Hiking can help with weight loss, blood pressure control and blood sugar control. 

If you are fortunate to not have any concerning health issues, hiking may help you to maintain and improve your health and endurance.

Hiking in our area of the country allows us to enjoy the beauty of nature, which can help with mood and sleep issues. Enjoying the outdoors can have tremendous benefits for physical and mental health.

Hiking long distances in remote areas of Wyoming requires planning to stay healthy whether you are planning a long day hike or an extended multi-night trip. Here are a few things to consider for a safe and enjoyable experience:

Stay mindfully present in the parking lot. Keeping focus on the moment for these final preparations to the journey will help you start safely and stay well. Equipment is often run over by vehicles, left behind, or misplaced in the parking lot at the start of the hike. Sometimes a backcountry hike begins with crossing a paved highway which could be the most dangerous part of the hike if you consider injury statistics.

Stay oriented. Know where you have been, where you are, and where you are going. Tell someone back home where you are going and when to expect your return. Having a handheld GPS unit with SOS communication options is important if you are venturing into the backcountry. Carrying and knowing how to use a map and compass can be invaluable if your electronic gadgets lose power.

Stay mobile. Pay attention to your feet. They are the tires of your body and will get you to your destination. Blisters are a problem for many hikers and are best addressed before they form. Blisters are caused by friction and happen when outer layers of skin move more than inner layers. Wet socks accelerate the process. Keep your feet dry and friction free. Use moleskin or a product called Leukotape to address problem areas.  It may help to wear a double sock … a thin, water-wicking sock on the inside with a wool sock on the outside. The double-sock strategy allows friction to occur between the two sock layers rather than the layers of your skin.  Also, consider using foot products such as Foot Glide or Hike Goo which are designed to decrease friction on the skin. Have a plan for what to do if you develop a blister. If done properly, draining a blister is usually better if you have to continue hiking.

Stay warm and dry. Expect wind and rain. Be happy when the weather cooperates but be prepared if it doesn’t.

Stay hydrated and fed. Bring a water purifier with you to avoid getting Giardia and other things that are best avoided. Bring enough food to fuel your body as you hike.

Stay whole. Do not let animals bite you — from mosquitos to bears and everything in between. Mosquito repellent and your choice of bear spray are a must. In bear country, the use of a bear-proof container for food and scented products should be considered.

Avoid sunburn. Wear plenty of sunscreen and a wide brimmed hat.  Getting sunburned is bad for your skin, is painful, and can contribute to dehydration.

We are fortunate to live in a part of the country where much of the world chooses to vacation.  Heading into the backcountry to clear the mind and truly get back to nature is good for the soul.  The Bighorn Mountains offer striking beauty and seclusion. Multiple long day hikes or overnight hikes can be done in the Absaroka-Beartooth range.

Yellowstone National Park includes many trails that offer a combination of beauty and seclusion once you leave the blacktop. The 75 miles of Continental Divide Trail through Yellowstone is full of amazing sites and experiences and is truly a local hiking treasure. This section of trail can be done in a couple of long day hikes and one overnight hike for those unable to make a multi-day hike.

Finally, support your local businesses when planning trips. Many of the supplies can be purchased locally in Powell and Cody. I have found the knowledgeable folks at Sunlight Sports to be incredibly helpful when it comes to planning and preparing to hike or backpack in this part of the country or elsewhere.   


(Dr. Mike Tracy is a cofounder of 307Health. He has practiced internal medicine and pediatrics in Powell since 2002.)

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