I don’t know exactly how to start this one. We’re all in uncharted territory. I thought about writing my “La Vida Local” from the perspective of my new puppy, like The Art of Racing in The Rain, but that didn’t feel right. But, the dog, that seems like a good place to start.

Her name is Hope, an appropriate name we thought, in these trying times. Plus, she’s as sweet as can be. We got her over at the La Plata Humane Society, and she’s been the most welcome distraction. The wonderful employees over there told us she came from “a hoarder situation” and that she had parvovirus so she’s had a bit of a rough start to life.

We did a social distancing meet and greet with Hope outside of the Humane Society, and she instantly bonded with Amber, my fiancee. I liked her too, and we decided what the heck, let’s get this dog. While we waited back at the truck for the paperwork, and the puppy, I immediately felt some buyer’s remorse. We met this dog for a few minutes and now we’re stuck with her for the next decade and a half? What have we done, I thought to myself.

Then, another employee brought her out and gave us all the information and instructions. We hopped in the truck with our new puppy, and she instantly melted our hearts. I held her a little bit, and in that short time I knew we’d made the right decision.

And while we thought about names, Amber’s sister recommended Hope. It was perfect.

Hope. We sure do need some of that right about now. I guess even though many of our situations are the same, everyone might need something different now. My personal situation isn’t the worst. I already work from home, so even before COVID-19 I had a routine that I’m still able to keep. I feel fortunate to still have writing work, and I empathize with every-
one who is out of work. During the last economic downturn, I had a spell of unemployment, but at least then I could just go out and climb and forgot my troubles. Now, even something as simple as climbing is complicated, and from all my research, not recommended. I have a hard time justifying any risk when I know ending up in the hospital from a sports-related injury would be a terrible situation.

The lens that I see everything now is through Amber. Since she’s a nurse, I check all my information with her. (It’s not a great time to be a news junkie, like myself.) But, I feel fortunate to be so close to someone in the medical world to fact check information in a day and age of misinformation. Just weeks ago, our president was telling us, “it’s going to disappear, like a miracle” when the information he had clearly stated otherwise. So lesson one, I suppose, don’t listen to the president.

I’ve been doing my best to use my platforms to be a good advocate. It’s been tough though, as this stuff is new to all of us. (I do recommend reading about the 1918 flu and how that affected the world. There’s some really interesting articles about Gunnison and Silverton, and how they handled it very differently.)

At first, three plus weeks ago, I thought social distancing would just mean climbing in the desert where no one was. Then, I was made aware of the ramifications of that. First, while traveling through the small towns to get to the desert I could be spreading the virus or contracting it, and second, I could get hurt in the middle of nowhere and put stress on an already strained medical system. So, I realized climbing in the desert was out of the question. But, what about climbing locally?

After thinking through all the scenarios and doing my research, I realized I was going to stop climbing completely, and I’ve been advocating for others to do the same. I’ve certainly got some blowback online for this opinion, but I’m willing to accept that. And I’m willing to admit that certain instances of climbing, like low-risk situations in secluded areas probably OK. One thing that is not OK is heading out to a very small climbing area like Turtle Lake and coming into contact with other people, while touching the same climbing holds. We’re called “dirtbags” for a reason; and it’s not because we’re known for impeccable hygiene.

I have been trying to exercise every day. My routine is to hit up my hangboard in the garage for strength, mellow walks with the puppy, and mellow bike rides without the pup. Because I’m such a terrible mountain biker, I’ve been staying on dirt roads. Singletrack to me feels as dangerous as bouldering, so I’ve kept to the dirt road up at Sailing Hawks, right by my house.

The one public place I go to every day is the post office. I put hand sanitizer on before and after, and lately, after the recommendation from our governor, I’ve been wearing a buff over my nose and mouth. And, of course, I thoroughly wash my hands when I get home. Same routine for going to the grocery store.

One last thing I want to highlight is the work of our local MakerLab at The Powerhouse. When they learned of the shortage of PPE in the medical world, they immediately reached out to the local hospitals and began creating PPE.

This effort has been heroic, and they are doing important work to keep our medical professionals safe. I am amazed and impressed by the work that is going on there.

On a much lighter note, this shelter in place has finally motivated me to release my podcast, “Dirtbag State of Mind.” Like so many other people I’m consuming much more content than normal, so I figured it would be a good time to put out some free content of my own for people to enjoy. The beginning of the first season details my mental health struggles when I was a young man, so I’m hoping the podcast highlights a positive story about darkness coming from light.

I wish you all the best, and I encourage you to be diligent about keeping yourselves and others safe.

This piece was originally published in the Durango Telegraph.

I am the author of five books, and the publisher of The Climbing Zine. You can buy a book, zine, or merch at our online store. I also recently launched a podcast called Dirtbag State of Mind.

Check out my latest film, Just A Climber, For Bears Ears

Also: listen to my curated playlist: Hip Hop and Climbing Vol. 1, now on Spotify.