ORLANDO, Fla. — The sun is shining in Central Florida, but many have been hunkering down to work from home and care for their families inside their homes. Despite the spread of coronavirus, it's still possible to find peace outdoors.
Florida's state parks remain open with reduced hours until further notice (camping, rentals, activities and events have been canceled). Urban green spaces in Orlando from Lake Eola to Lake Baldwin Park still welcome visitors. Seminole County encouraged locals to practice social distancing "close to home" by utilizing the county's public lands.
Health officials have asked the public to stay home as much as possible and go out only when necessary.
And if you're sick, the best practice is to stay home and, if showing symptoms of COVID-19, get tested and self-quarantine for at least 14 days.
But if you're healthy and in need of fresh air, nature should provide a welcome respite from an unprecedented time of stress and isolation.
Still, you should take precautions when opting for the outdoors: Wash your hands frequently, disinfect community-used surfaces and avoid touching your face. Also, stay at least six feet apart from others while embarking on any outdoor adventure.
While running races from the Tokyo Marathon to the Boston Marathon have been canceled or postponed, running alone or with one or two partners is possible when exercising the right precautions.
Try to keep distance between running buddies and other people on the trails or streets. Avoid public restrooms, but if you can't, wash hands after coming into high-contact surfaces. Also exercise caution when using crosswalk buttons, perhaps using an elbow instead of a hand.
Central Florida trails well-suited for running include the Little Econ Greenway, Orlando Urban Trail, the 2.5-mile loop around Lake Baldwin and the Cady Way Trail.
BOATING AND PADDLING
For now, Central Florida's waterways are open to boating, paddling and fishing. It's easy to keep distance between other boaters on the water, but harder to maintain at least six feet of distance when sharing a pontoon or fishing boat with others. Plan accordingly.
But when setting out in individual kayaks or on paddleboards, lakes and rivers can provide plenty of distance between you and anyone else enjoying outdoor recreation.
Easily-accessible Central Florida paddles include Rock Springs' "Emerald Cut," the Winter Park Chain of Lakes, Silver Springs State Park, Juniper Springs and the Econ River.
Nothing quite compares to the solitude one can experience while hiking through parts of Florida's lush wilderness. While the heat is ramping up and the state's mild winter fades into the distant past, hiking is still possible in Central Florida.
If hiking in a small group, try to keep distance between hikers. If heading out alone, be sure to plan your route, take enough food and water and let someone know where you're heading. Be cautious and practice good hygiene when using public restrooms, packing hand sanitizer if it's available.
In Seminole County, find a 7.1-mile loop trail that follows the St. Johns River in the Black Bear Wilderness Area, or visit the 240-acre Econ Wilderness Area. Explore the Turkey Lake Nature Trail at Bill Frederick Park. Take a stroll through Mead Botanical Gardens. Hike through any of the state parks while they remain open or go to the Orlando Wetlands Park.
While it's not advisable for cyclists to continue embarking on large group rides, heading out on the trails on two wheels is possible when keeping distance between a few riding partners or going out alone.
As with other activities, be careful when visiting public restrooms or encountering high-touch surfaces while riding.
Central Florida has miles and miles of paved trails to explore, including on the Seminole Wekiva Trail, Cady Way Trail, Little Econ Greenway, West Orange Trail and Cross Seminole Trail. Or visit Lake Druid Park and Markham Woods for some mountain biking action.
Alternatively, explore options for virtual group rides on indoor trainers using services such as Zwift.
PARKS AND REC
While Central Florida's urban green spaces can sometimes draw crowds, it's possible to visit while practicing social distancing.
Avoid or practice extra hygiene when encountering high-touch areas such as playgrounds and benches, plus try to keep several feet of distance between you and other park visitors.
Lake Eola Park might still be a little too crowded, but Lake Baldwin Park, Barnett Park, Mead Botanical Gardens and Kraft Azalea Park provide good opportunities for spreading out. In addition, Leu Gardens remains open for now.
Many of Central Florida's golf courses are currently open to those who want to tee off. The links are a place where isolation is possible.
If golfing with somebody else, consider using separate golf carts. Be sure to disinfect the cart before using it and wash hands when finished.
Orlando-area public courses include Dubsdread, Shingle Creek, Winter Park, Hawk's Landing, MetroWest and North Shore golf clubs.