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The great outdoors

Originally published in the Ketchikan Daily News, March 2020; written by Pat Tully

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic most public and private facilities have closed for a while, and events, meetings and community activities have been cancelled or postponed. It feels as though our world has become very small.

Ketchikan has amazing community and social spaces—the Ketchikan Public Library is just one of many. The Rec Center, UAS Ketchikan, Ketchikan Museums, and others—all strengthen our community by bringing us together to work, play and learn. But this pandemic has turned everything on its head. The things that make these places special also makes it necessary to close them. Right now the last place you want to be is in an enclosed community space with a bunch of other people.

So what is a family to do when everyone is sick of television, video games and crafts? One thing might be to go outside and enjoy the beauty of Ketchikan and the Tongass Narrows.

My favorite outdoor activity—walking--is also one of the easiest. No matter where you are in Ketchikan there are beautiful trails and walking paths. For example, I live south of town and love walking the path from Mountain Point to the Coast Guard Base. It is flat with just a few gentle rises, and lovely views of the Narrows and islands that surround us.

Walking, even along roads you drive every day, can be a revelation. Things you barely notice in your car reveal themselves when you approach them on foot. You may discover a beautiful front yard garden, vintage car, an eye-catching storefront—or if you are lucky enough, a Little Free Library!

Walking alone or with one or two others gives you time to think through problems, reminisce about the past, and dream about the future. Walking can be educational as well. For example, I love the trail around Ward Lake, but I cannot identify its trees, plants and insects to save my life. If you are similarly wildlife-challenged, go on a nature walk with your kids, take pictures of interesting flora and fauna and, when you get back home, try to match the pictures with those on a website such as Alaska Plants and Alaska Flowers.

For yet another perspective on our lovely islands, take to the water! It is a beautiful time of year to take out your kayak, skiff or boat and go exploring.

For the sake of our community, we must step back from community activities for a while. We can use this time to appreciate once again the natural beauty of Ketchikan.

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