Covocalypse Part 1
In today's world of follow-me drones, GoPro heros, and cell phone cameras, I find myself looking at a lot more photos and videos shared online with little explanation. It makes me yearn for the evenings viewing a screen set up in a living room displaying color slides and listening, spellbound, to yarns of incredible adventures and hilarious exploits the slides only captured a small slice of. This was how I spent my formitive years, and still love the story behind the photo likely more than the photo itself.
Story telling likely is something outdoor enthusiasts possess an unusual penchant for. Outdoor experiences, by their very nature, thrust us into situations where things may or may not go as planned - making for great stories. These situations, more often than not, also reveal personality idiosyncrasies. Frequently, the manifestation of these personality idiosyncrasies are the best part of the story.
Looking through the photos on my phone recently, it occurred the current situation with the lockdown to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus, with our phones constantly on hand as cameras, these photos tell quite a story. This, of course, is not anything new. Rather, during these times without precedent in our lifetime, this timelie of photos captures moments depicting each of our personal journies through these times.
Viewing this timeline, the stark contrast, pre-covocalypse and post-covocalypse is blatently evident. Recalling the moments, the feelings and the experiences surrounding the photos in this timeline, it occurred to me there is salient value in capturing a bit of this. This value very well may simply be for myself, but also for others.
Writing it right now is a form of therapy in itself, and likely will be interesting to me later. It also is a way to communicate and share experiences with friends, an open letter of sorts, similar to the Christmas letters updating friends when I was growing up. This short memoir also potentially can be theraputic even if you are not in my closest circle, simply a way of seeing you are not alone in your experiences.
For us, the second week in March is when things started to become very real, very fast. Although it started slow, the winter had been a pretty decent ski season with good snow showing up right after New Year's. I had also been training in my boat quite a bit, doing attainment workouts on the rain swollen Deschutes river in Olympia to be relatively fit and ready for later spring opportunites to go paddling.
On Wed 11 Mar, in response to alarming pnumonia-like deaths in Seattle attributed to a new upper respiratory virus, a new novel coronavirus, originating in Whuhan, China, Washington Governor Jay Inslee banned events of 50 or more people, and implored all residents of Washington State, "Washingtonians," to practice a new concept, social distancing. We had already reserved a condo at White Pass Ski Area for a three-day weekend, and we figured outdoor activities are social distancing, so we went ahead and went.
We did practice social distancing in many respects by not using the lodges, and not taking the boys to daycare. Saturdy skiing was outstanding. It snowed heavily all day. We did venture into High Hut to use the bathroom. With half the seats removed following the new social distancing guidelines at least partially, people were stading around trying to figure out how to eat lunch.
By Sunday, reports were getting dire from Seattle, and the entire ski area was closing down. We headed home a day early. As we packed up and headed home on Sunday, it was snowing heavily. The best powder days of the season were ahead of us, but it was already obvious the ski season was already over. Over the course of the weekend we went from cautious skeptics to hunkering down for what was to come.
The following week is when things began to change fast. We quickly began to minimize uneccesary contact with the outside word by consolidating our shopping trips. Since our daycare was still open, and so was my office, we continued our normal daily routine. It seems strange in retrospect, but Gina and I, before picking up the boys from daycare on Friday, went to grab a beer and discussed the situation and how to adjust our strategy. My office, just that day, had officially closed. We decided to pick up our 16-foot trailer from Packwood near the ski hill to use as a home office, pull the boys out of day care, and start to work from home.
Based on our normal standards, the weekend of 22-23 Mar was dissapointing, but looking back, closer to normal than we've had since. We had kept our trailer in Packwood near the ski hill at the town RV park for the winter. Anticipating having our two and four year old boys at home, I made the two hour drive up with our oldest son, Jesse, on Sunday to pick up the trailer.
Besides picking up the trailer, we did not make any other stops. After making a lot of long distance drives in my life, while I do not miss 12+ hour marathon drives, I still find getting behind the wheel for an hour or two somewhat theraputic. It was a gorgeous day. While picking up the trailer, I looked around at the moutains surrounding Packwood. Raineer was occasionally peeking through the clouds from the north. It was gorgeous. The snow line was only a few hundred feet above town.
Part of me, although I did not want to admit it, was already beginning to resign myself to what I had a good idea was ahead. I love being in the mountains and on mountain rivers. Although we can see magnificient mountains from Olympia, we decidedly are not in the moutains.
This was the last weekend I was going to have for quite a while. The company I work for, Esri, creates the best complete suite of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software in the world. Not surprisingly, Esri also has brought together some of the most innovative minds in geographic analysis in the world as well. Esri was about to be thrust into the forefront of the response to the novel coronavirus, the disease we would come to know as SARS-CoV-2, and I was about to become a part of it.