Pandemic Fatigue is real. It’s draining to stay on high alert month after month (after month!) Couple that with unending polarizing political dialogue, and let’s face it… who wouldn’t feel exhausted?

Early in the year, when we first learned about coronavirus, it almost felt patriotic to follow “safer at home” orders knowing that your actions (or inaction as the case may be) were keeping you and others safe. But soon the novelty wore off and the restrictions became more tiresome.

The announcements of potential vaccines intensified the temptation to relax compliance. Yet, at the time of this writing, the weekly increase in new and confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Hopewell Valley alone is five times the level of its previous high. Therefore, the interim period between widespread infection and immunity is literally measured in lives.

The well-known precautions associated with limiting virus spread are wearing a mask, washing your hands, distancing, and avoiding crowds. While the mask wearing gets the most controversial media coverage, social distancing seems to be a bigger challenge for most people.

Distancing is a challenge and a paradox. Staying physically isolated from others will obviously allow you to avoid contact with their germs. Unfortunately, that isolation may also result in avoiding contact with their love and affection.

In other words, we need to take precautions like distancing to stay healthy, yet prolonged social isolation can cause loneliness which also has a tangible impact on mental and physical health.

FoHOVS land stewart Beth Craighead, 5th from left, with HVCHS students Ben Thomas, Grayson Lewis, Garrett Zimmerman, Alex Maria, Sarah Yancey and Harriet Strunk, who earned Honor Society service hours by training in trail maintenance at Fiddler’s Creek Preserve. Training for additional volunteers will be Dec. 5. Contact lhorvath@fohvos.org for information.

Since my column is called Nature in The Valley, it’s not surprising that my recommendation to this dilemma is finding a solution in nature. Braving the weather and getting outdoors with a small number of friends and family may be a good option.

According to the CDC, Covid is most commonly spread by people in close contact with one another and the odds increase with prolonged contact and poor ventilation (i.e. indoors.)

While it’s best to limit indoor gatherings to the immediate family, get your fix for seeing others at a distance in the outdoors.

The Lawrence Hopewell Trail offers a great opportunity to get some exercise. Much of it is wheelchair accessible so it’s a perfect option for folks with limited mobility.

D&R Greenway Children’s Discovery Trail provides a local place to keep children entertained. If you want to travel a bit further the South Mountain Fairy Trail features mystical miniature houses that bring a touch of magic to the New Jersey woods in any weather.

Visit the Hopewell Valley Arts Council website for a map to ArtSpires throughout Hopewell Valley. They are designed by local artists and commemorate the loss of native ash trees from the harmful effects of the emerald ash borer beetle as part of the organization’s ongoing initiative Out of the Ashes: Art Emerging from Fallen Trees. My favorite is Spire 48: “To all Trees with Thanks.”

Visit mercercountyparks.org under #OptOuside for a map of a self-guided 5-mile hike through Baldpate Mountain.

The D&R Canal and Washington Crossing State parks are also excellent options.

The new 2020 FoHVOS Guide to Walking Trails in the Hopewell Valley features 100 miles of 25 walking trails throughout Hopewell Valley. The guide offers previously unavailable info on new properties like the Woosamonsa Ridge Preserve. Look for newly introduced QR codes throughout the book that provide Interactive GPS to point out special features and ensure you won’t get lost. Visit the FoHVOS website to download it free.

Finally, there are volunteer opportunities to monitor and maintain trails, plant trees and more. Stay safe and healthy this holiday season. We’re all looking forward to health and hugs in 2021.

Lisa Wolff is the executive director of Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space. Email: lwolff@fohvos.org.