A Message from the President of Great Outdoors L.A.

Los Angeles
March 28, 2020

Greetings members of Great Outdoors,

     Today, as I (and hopefully most of Los Angeles) am obeying the Mayor’s “Stay at Home” order, I am reflecting on how the Great Outdoors was founded over 40 years ago as a “social” outdoor camping and hiking group serving the social needs of the gay community.

     Lately, I have heard so much in the news about social distancing.  I wish to change the narrative a bit and suggest that authorities change the national health directive to “physical distancing”, not social distancing. Humans are naturally social and the self-isolation directive understandably may induce additional stress, anxiety, and a bit of cabin fever.  All at Great Outdoors stress the need to listen to the medical experts and keep our 6 foot distance when we leave our places of residence. This time is also an opportunity for social outreach to our friends, family, and neighborhood. This is the moment when we can reach out via email, text, face timing, whatever the mode is to make sure those around us are OK and safe while maintaining our need to interact with others and still obey the mayor’s directive.

     During past hikes at Griffith Park and Elysian Park, I was dismayed with how many people were not taking the necessary physical distancing in order to suppress the spread of the COVID-19 virus. All in Los Angeles must take this directive seriously as per the medical experts.  Those same experts are stating that the US has probably lost the battle for early COVID-19 testing and containment and that the only effective assault is vigilant hygiene, staying at home, and keeping a safe distance if you have to leave your residence.

     I also encourage members that if you feel the need to get outside and get some fresh air, please avoid the over-crowded places like Runyon Canyon, Griffith Park, and Elysian Park. The city of LA is directing that if we feel the need to go outdoors it is best to do so in our local neighborhoods and keep our distance.  In addition, the Mayor has recently directed the city to close most beach parking and all of the sports and recreational facilities throughout the LA county parks area to further discourage crowding at local parks. 

     Lastly, during the crisis we hear a lot about physical hygiene but not mental hygiene.  The pandemic has caused so much anxiety on an unprecedented and worldwide scale that we all need to make sure that our mental health gets attention as well. I encourage members to “destress” by meditation, prayer, bingeing on movies, music, or whatever you feel the need to do in order to just relax and take a breath. As I was watching TV recently, I was so touched by an Italian city where the neighbors were serenading and singing to each other on their apartment balconies.  I am also optimistic as I witness great outpourings of assistance and extra friendliness throughout the city during these difficult times. 

     For now the Great Outdoors has cancelled all scheduled events through the end of April. Please continue to check the website for additional future updates on events.  Please also visit https://corona-virus.la/  for all updates of the City of LA’s website for information and resources.  Please join the Great Outdoors on March 31 for our “Virtual Happy Hour” via Zoom.  This is a great place to discuss and reconnect with other members of the Great Outdoors.

Stay safe, stay sane, stay home.

Mike Wickstrom
President, Great Outdoors L.A.