Spending time in nature can be a healing and restorative experience. While trying to observe Montana’s Stay-at-Home directive, Gallatin County residents have taken to the streets, hills, and trails in record numbers.

How can we get a dose of nature, while remaining mindful of the impact we are having on our surroundings and on those around us?

I’ve driven to some of my favorite trailheads over the past several weeks, and turned around finding them full to capacity. In respect to how much we all love our local trail system, here are a few thoughts on sharing our favorite spaces together, at a distance:

  • Be strategic when choosing the time of day that you’re out. I’ve found that venturing out earlier in the day not only reduces the number of encounters, but creates less damage to the trail since the ground is still slightly frozen.
  • Go for lower usage trails. This is a great time to stay off the beaten path, investigating local trails that are not heavily used. Keep in mind that remaining close to home is also recommended which can make exploring your neighborhood and surrounding areas your new challenge.
  • Don’t carpool to trailheads or congregate in parking lots. It’s hard not to mingle with those we see, but save your greetings for a quick smile and nod as you pass by. Montanans are famous for our friendly hellos on the trail, analogous to a rural backroad wave. Now is a good time to live up to that genial reputation while keeping our distance.
  • Breathe in the fresh air. The outdoors provides its own natural aromatherapy that boosts your immune system. Scientists have studied that breathing in phytoncide, airborne chemicals produced by plants, increases our levels of white blood cells and helps fight off infections and diseases.
  • Spread out and keep that 6 -foot rule in place, don’t touch your face and when you get done, wash your hands. This sounds like a nagging repetitive chant, but there is power in knowing that you have the tools to break the chain of transmission.

As the weather starts to warm up and invites even more temptation to the great outdoors, keeping ourselves and those around us healthy is our biggest priority. Being resilient and resourceful in pursuing our daily exercise aligns with our Montana values.

Maury Wiegand has been a personal trainer and wellness educator in Bozeman for the past 25 years.